‘Speedway to Healthy’
JACKSON – It’s not every day you get to take a journey through the human body, but students in Northampton County did just that this past week.
The “Speedway to Healthy” exhibit is an interactive walkthrough learning event that teaches elementary schoolers how healthy eating affects all parts of the body. The Northampton County Cooperative Extension and 4-H program partnered with the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson to host the exhibit from NC A&T University from Tuesday, Nov. 19 through Thursday, Nov. 21.
“This is the first time we’re hosting Speedway to Healthy,” said Northampton County’s 4-H Extension Agent Sara Villwock. “Commissioner Nicole Boone brought the idea to Northampton Cooperative Extension to bring this exhibit to our county for the students.”
Over 600 students in total from Gaston Elementary, Willis Hare Elementary, Kipp Gaston, and Northeast Academy were able to experience the walkthrough exhibit. They went through in small groups, stopping at 11 stations in five-minute intervals, covering areas of the body ranging from the mouth, small intestines, lungs, bones, skin, and more.
A presenter at each station talked about the function of each body part, such as how bones provide structure for the body and how skin protects everything on the inside. They also learned interesting facts such as how the small intestines are 20 feet long and there are 600 muscles in the human body.
The kids were especially excited for hands-on activities as they moved throughout the body. In the mouth, for example, they were able to brush large teeth with a giant toothbrush. In the stomach, they simulated digestion by “wiggling” in place. For muscles, they had a chance to lift small hand-weights to learn about exercise.
The focus, however, was on healthy eating, and each station noted which foods were important to keep the body healthy. Students learned that calcium from dairy products helps build strong bones, while proteins strengthen muscles. Drinking lots of water will help kidneys, and avoiding unhealthy foods will help keep the brain running smoothly.
Jerry Edmonds IV, 4-H Agent for Halifax County, served as a volunteer and said he was impressed with the knowledge students already had and their willingness to learn more in a fun way.
Northampton Livestock Agent Beth Burchell, who presented information in the heart station said, “I enjoyed seeing the kids realize that taking care of their heart through healthy living is important. They never thought about how our hearts can’t take naps like we can when we get tired.”
While the event focused on an innovative way to increase student knowledge, its greater purpose was to instill healthy lifestyle choices during childhood.
“The Speedway to Healthy project was created as a resource to fight childhood obesity and poor health among children in North Carolina,” Villwock explained. “Over the past 30 years, child obesity rates have tripled among school-aged children at younger and younger ages.”
“In 2013, North Carolina was labeled the 23rd state with the highest childhood obesity rates,” she continued.
In addition to the exhibit, the students also took part in a variety of other activities while they waited for the turn. Those activities included things such as jump-roping, hula-hooping, playing soccer, coloring, reading a story on healthy living, and more.
“The event is only possible with the help of many people, and we want to thank the 80 volunteers who gave their time to make this event a success,” concluded Villwock.