More And Better
For A Healthy Heart - Healthy Children
We arrived at EB1 - O Leão de Arroios - and the 1st grade room is empty for a few minutes.
It's recess time and the children play effusively outside.
In the room we can only hear a fan that spins at full speed, May as only just begun but the heat demands that it works harder to circulate the air.
Drawings, collages, desks full of school supplies, behaviour charts and backpacks that flood the floor seem to have a life of their own in a room whose silence will very soon be betrayed. We are welcomed by Professor Célia Nunes who helps organise the tables for the dynamic lesson that will educate them on how to respect their own Hearts.
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On the month dedicated to the great muscle of the human body, the Heart is an interesting topic to talk about in Schools, in a class that intends to reach the parents themselves through the message of the children.
“For A Healthy Heart is the name of the CCUL program, University of Lisbon Cardiovascular Centre, which voluntarily promotes awareness and education to children, from 3 to 18 years old. Reaching several schools, it is intended to alert to some risk behaviours that lead to cardiovascular diseases, but depending on the children's ages the speech and the dynamics of these actions may have different approaches. Through stories, theatres, debates, information and exchange of conversations, the Healthy Heart team promotes healthy living concepts in order to prevent cardiovascular disease. The coordinator of this program at Schools is Ana Pinto, postdoc in the research group of Angiogenesis of the CCUL and promoter of this initiative since its inception. She is accompanied by two other members of the CCUL, Filipa Marques, an active and dedicated volunteer and Susana Constantino, who has always fostered this Program. They confess that it is very gratifying to know that children enjoy the activities proposed and that they will be able to verbalize the messages learned, expressing them to the parents: "I'll tell them that smoking is bad"; "that the heart becomes sick when we eat foods with too much salt, fat and sugar," "a healthy heart eats healthy food and exercises".
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Today, the Professor is Susana Constantino, an experienced mother of three young children who is accustomed to managing the attention of her oldest students of Biochemistry at the Lisbon Medical School.
As the team organises the room, I ask Professor Célia to take me to the exit of the recess area because I want to see what happens when the bell rings. "The bell just rang and now you'll see they're going to slowly start walking up to the classroom, but you'll notice that almost all of them will arrive at the same time". The Professor knows her class, the prediction doesn't fail. Ahead comes Tiago who leads his group and steers everyone to the room. There is 1 more hour ahead of them.
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"Who wants to listen to their heart?". Ana and Filipa welcome us at the entrance of the classroom, each with a stethoscope. Some look down, in an attempt to see their insides, as if this would explain to them something that was not yet very noticeable.
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Next to the board is the new Professor for that last hour of class, Professor Susana Constantino.
A tambourine and Leonor were the first protagonists. Talking about emotions, or about the rhythms of the heart when she's on her mother's lap, or in a race to reach the football first. With examples of quick perception, Leonor accelerated or stopped the sound of the tambourine to recreate the state of her heart. The more talkative ones began to give the first signs of participation. But it was not long before most of them raised their arms in the air to accept the challenge of participating in a theatre to recreate the heart, its arteries and its blockades.
With their fingers in the air and tirelessly disputing between answers and solutions to all the doubts presented by Professor Susana, the message was getting through, "you have to take care of this muscle, what can we do to take care of it?".
Glued on the large slate board we could see several photographs that already anticipated a discussion. Chips, soda, bread with butter and cookies were the most acclaimed images by all. "Who likes their food quite salty?". "Me!", several replied. But the good news is that on the list of healthier products for a balanced diet there was no lack of positive votes for water, bread with olive oil, fruits, or vegetables.
To illustrate the excess salt and sugar that some products contain so disguisedly, the children were shown how much of these ingredients is in a serving of a bag of chips, or in a bowl of chocolate cereal, respectively.
The group split into three, and each of the elements of the Heart team depleted the last letters of messages that should be engraved in memory. Despite various requests to try the cereal with chocolate and some attempts to "steal" some chips, only strawberries with the seeds could be eaten.
The room was now flooded with multiple voices and comments as the seeds sprayed tables and the floor. "If I'm well behaved can I eat the cereals with chocolate?", asked little Ana representing a majority who still tried to accept the seeds as a positive novelty of the menu.
It was 5:30 pm and school was over.
Tydied room and Professor Célia's guarantee that they loved the class, everything was empty in seconds, with small marks indicating a windstorm might have gone through there not caused by the fan that revolved in the room.
Every month the CCUL Heart team reaches another school carrying out the message that, once sown, the seed will only need to be watered or reinforced.
Would you like to suggest this program to a school you know?
Contact the program coordinator Ana Pinto - firstname.lastname@example.org
Know more, here