Students help with school health fair


SUMMARY: This semester, students from the occupational therapy (OT), physician assistant (PA), dietetics, nursing and cognitive psychology programs helped host the Stone Spring Elementary Health and Wellness Fair.

By: Daniel Vieth '15, '17
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: JMU students at health fair

It can be challenging for students in health disciplines to learn how to explain complex health information to clients from different age groups and backgrounds. This semester, students from the occupational therapy (OT), physician assistant (PA), dietetics, nursing and cognitive psychology programs addressed this challenge by helping host the Stone Spring Elementary Health and Wellness Fair. For these students, the fair was a chance to engage with the community, build health communication skills and work on interprofessional development across the different programs.

Each spring, Stone Spring Elementary hosts a number of events like the Health and Wellness Fair to enrich the community. JMU students first became involved in the health fair in 2013 when OT faculty member Amy Russell Yun attended a Stone Spring Elementary Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting. “When [the PTA] discovered that I was a healthcare professional, they asked if I could help them with the fair,” said Yun. “Over time I got more and more involved with organizing the event and networking with groups at JMU and in the community.”

The Health and Wellness Fair was set up as an after school event, where students and families could freely roam and participate in the multiple stations run by JMU students and other organizations. “My [OT] group chose to collaborate with the dietetics program to set up booths about healthy eating habits,” explained Lindsey Sawyer, a graduate OT student. “We had informational posters, coloring sheets, a bean bag toss game with different fruits and vegetables and a ‘MyPlate’ puzzle to sort the different food groups.” Other stations included a mannequin for demonstrating CPR, a booth about positive body talk, demonstrations from the local fire department on proper car seat use, an exercise bounce house and more. “It’s a great chance for the [elementary] students to get to learn different things that they may not be taught in schools,” said Sawyer. “That way those issues can be addressed early on to set them up for long term success.”

PHOTO: JMU students at healthfair

For Yun, the fair was an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills in a community setting. “[The OT program] has a lot of professional educational program objectives, such as being able to explain certain health principles to diverse members of the community,” Yun explained. “This is really important for communicating information to clients.” For example, the JMU students addressed language barriers in communicating with clients from different cultural backgrounds. “There are 53 different languages spoken by families in Harrisonburg City Public Schools,” Yun continued. “Explaining these health concepts, or showing pictures for those who don’t speak English as a first language, helps our students think about how they will work with clients who speak other languages during their careers.”

This year was also the first to feature workstations put together by multiple JMU health disciplines, such as the collaboration between OT and dietetics for their healthy eating booth. “That’s really my next goal, to get our students to co-plan activities more,” said Yun. “The students will be working in interdisciplinary teams in their careers, so it’s important to learn more about other professions now.” According to Yun, it can be easy for healthcare students to become isolated in their own program, sometimes at the cost of understanding and respect for other healthcare fields. “Working together with other health disciplines lets you better appreciate what you know, understand how other disciplines have expertise in areas you don’t and find where the areas dovetail,” Yun added. “It gives you that kind of perspective.”

The event benefited the elementary students by teaching them important health information in a fun and engaging way. “I think the [elementary] students really enjoyed the fair,” said Sawyer. “They were able to ask questions, and we were able to support their learning, encourage them, and make learning a fun and exciting thing rather than a chore.” The fair is also valuable for parents because it shows them realistic health tips and practices. “A lot of times we think of exercise as something that can only be done at a gym, but if you’re a parent with young children you may not have time or be able to afford it,” said Yun. “Finding ways to get a little bit more activity in your day or slightly altering eating habits can really make a huge difference in the long run. Helping children and parents recognize those kind of principles can be really important.” 

The JMU health disciplines plan to continue working with Stone Spring Elementary to host and expand upon this event in the future. “I think this event is a really great way for the community and JMU to engage with each other,” added Sawyer. “I definitely hope that there are more events, especially for health and behavioral studies students to share what we have been learning and share it with the community.” 

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Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 8, 2020

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