Greenville elementary school students enjoy hands-on medical experience

Posted by Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 10:33 am on Thursday, February 20 2014

A group of fifth-graders examine the “organs” of an artificial human torso during the a mini medical school event at Baldwin Heights Elementary School. Surgeons from Spectrum United Health Hospital instructed students on a variety of surgeries. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

GREENVILLE — Scalpel, please.

Donning full surgeon gear, fifth-grade students at Baldwin Heights and Lincoln Heights elementary in Greenville got a first-person point of view of what it’s like to operate on different organs within the human torso.

It was like a life-size version of the game Operation, with students as the surgeons. Using artificial torsos and mock organs using balloons and marshmallows, surgeons from Spectrum Health United Hospital were on hand at Baldwin Heights Friday as part of the school’s Mini Med School event.

Instructing students on how to conduct different surgeries, from removing a gall bladder and appendix to brain surgery, the surgeons informed students on functions of each of the different organs.

“This is really good for them,” said Eric Nelson, United Hospital’s director of surgical services. “This really gives them their first exposure to health care.”

Fifth-grader Luke Zamarron removes a “gall bladder” under the supervision of Spectrum United Health Hospital Director of Surgical Services Eric Nelson.

With the guiding directions of the surgeons, students opened small incisions in the abdomen, drawing out the small “gall bladder.” Then a larger incision to view the intestines, pancreas, liver, appendix and more.

“I’ve always taught science beyond the textbook and I think kids learn better beyond the textbook,” said Baldwin Heights science teacher Mindy Hepinstall. “It gives kids that hands on you can’t get from a worksheet or textbook.”

That it did, students said.

“Surgery is a lot more complicated than it looks,” fifth-grader Hayden Knefely said. “You have to cut them open and remove everything. I thought machines did all that.”

Last month students dissected pig lungs to kickoff a sort of series on human organs. The mini med school was another phase in that, giving students a chance to work directly with professionals learning about the human body.

“This is my favorite activity we do,” said Baldwin Heights Principal Michael Walsh.

All fifth-grade students in the district will take part in the school. Friday, students from Baldwin Heights and Lincoln Heights conducted the operations. Monday, students from Walnut Hills and Cedar Crest elementary schools will do the same.

“This is the first year all four buildings are taking part,” Hepinstall said.

In addition to a learning exercise of the human anatomy, medical officials said they hoped it opened the children’s eyes to potential careers in the medical field.

And for the students, they saw just what it takes.

“It’s a lot of work,” said student Carter Brownell. “It’s so much concentration.”

Fifth-grader Alize Reys, left, looks on as fellow student Hayden Knefely makes an incision on top of the head of the group’s “patient” for surgery on the brain. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

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