HANCEVILLE, Ala. — On the wall outside one set of bathrooms at Hanceville Elementary School is a painting of a teacher shaking her finger at the depiction of a large, purple germ. The illustration serves as a reminder to students to wash their hands as a way to avoid the invisible organisms that can spread illness.
Students in the nursing and dental health programs at Wallace State Community College recently reinforced that lesson and others involving personal safety and healthy habits when they visited the school to present SWELL: Safety Wellness Education for Lifestyle Learning. Students rotated between 10 different stations manned by Wallace State students, each with a different lesson about personal hygiene and safety.
At the beginning of the presentation, students were entertained by the nursing program’s Kids on the Block puppetry troupe. The troupe is a partnership with Children’s of Alabama, who provides them with scripts and music on a variety of subjects.
After the puppet show, the students broke into groups to visit the nine other stations. The stations taught lessons on exercise, the importance of wearing safety helmets, how germs are spread, dental care, sun and water safety, healthy eating habits, poison control, fire safety and buckling up in vehicles.
Since 2014, the group has shared these lessons with almost 7,600 students in grades K-6, visiting every school in Cullman City and Cullman County at least once in 19 separate visits.
Nursing instructor and SWELL program leader Janet Brown said they see positive results with the students after each visit. In several cases, Brown has provided quizzes for the students before and after their visits. Brown said the results from the quizzes taken two weeks after a SWELL visit showed marked improvement in scores.
“And, all the schools gave us a return invitation,” Brown added. “To me, that’s important.”
The program is taught during the students’ physical education course, so their instruction time is not disrupted. Plus, the students are up and moving around during the event, keeping them as active as they could have been during PE.
Second-semester nursing student Jay Terry of Cullman said he truly enjoyed participating in the SWELL event. “I wish I could do it again today,” he said the day after the program at Hanceville Elementary. During the event, Terry performed a skit about asthma as a puppeteer with the Kids on the Block Troupe, and alternately worked the fire safety and poison control stations.
“The stop, drop, and roll station educated them how if their house is on fire to get low and crawl out, and to try and not inhale smoke because that’s not good for your lungs, and if your clothes catch fire to stop, drop and roll,” Terry said. They also teach the students to make sure their family has a safe meeting place prearranged so that they can all gather there in case of an emergency.
“The Just Ask station was about educating them on the difference between medicine and candy, because medicine and candy can look like,” Terry said. The WSCC students show the elementary students a clear box, similar to a tackle box, where medicines and candies are displayed side by side, and ask children if they can tell the difference.
“There was one that even kind of scared me because it looked just like chocolate,” he said. Terry said they tell the children not to take medicine that isn’t theirs because it could make them very sick, and to ask before eating something they believe is candy, because it might be something dangerous.
Assistant Principal Micah Rice said he thinks the lessons from SWELL stick with the students, especially those who are being introduced to some of the lessons for the first time. “Like stop, drop, and roll, and how to deal with situations like that,” he said. “Plus it’s great to have Wallace State students around our kids. Any time that Hanceville Elementary can pair up with Wallace State, we want to be part of that.”
For more information about Wallace State and its programs, visit www.wallacestate.edu or call 256.352.8000.