Richey Elementary School students gathered around various stations set up along Morton Plant North Bay Hospital's fitness trail. As they waited in line to climb into the ambulance, they showed off various scars from bike riding accidents and surgeries.
The student health fair, held Monday, Dec. 4, was the second of its kind planned by the hospital's Community Advisory Council. In April, Kindergarten and first-graders from Richey Elementary School, which is across the street from the hospital, participated. This month, it was the turn of the school's third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
"The committee looks for ways to give back to the community," said Lisa Creswell, media relations coordinator for BayCare Health System, the Clearwater-based community hospital group to which Morton Plant North Bay belongs. "The elementary school is a neighbor of the hospital's and a great way as a nonprofit to give back and help educate the kids."
A version of the committee has been in play for four or five years, Creswell said, but this group has been active for just over a year. They put on the Holiday Lights show at the Medical Arts building this year.
The health fair teaches kids what to expect from doctor visits, how to develop healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise. Students are weighed and have their height measured and then learn about the various tools doctors use during a check-up visit, like a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.
New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center staff members set up a mini-physical exercise court with activities like passing a weighted ball and running through a tire course.
"I think it's a nice break to their school day," Creswell said.
At the healthy eating habits station, the students were given bottles of water and sliced apples to snack on while they learned how to read food labels and choose healthier snacks.
"This is my first time really eating apples and I like them," said 9-year-old Alyssa Maske.
The youngsters were shocked to learn that a bottle of orange juice or Gatorade can have as much sugar as a soda. They were also taught how germs spread and to cough and sneeze into their elbow instead of their hand.
The students were excited to meet teams of first-responders and got to climb into an ambulance to talk about when to call 911, sit in the front seat of a fire truck and learn from a police department crime scene technician how to dust for fingerprints.
"Can you arrest me?" Aspen Maestas, 8, asked New Port Richey police officers. "I want to know what it's like to be arrested."
While the officers declined to slap handcuffs on students, they did let them climb up on the T3, a three-wheeled electric standup vehicle sometimes used by law enforcement.
The students will journal their experiences and share them with the principal, who will pass along comments as feedback to the committee for future health fairs.
"I think it's great to have a partnership with businesses in the community," said Richey Elementary Principal Ken Miesner. "It gives the kids an opportunity to learn different things about health and their body and the hospital makes it very age-appropriate."