At the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School, I have been very fortunate this year to have the opportunity to create my own enrichment lesson plans for 8th grade students in our City Year after-school program called We Are The Change (WATC). The best part of making these lessons is finding out what interests our students and us have in common and then tailoring the lessons to incorporate these shared interests. Consequently, we have created several lesson plans this year based on a Health and Wellness theme that have been received very well by our students. In this edition of Top 5, I would like to share my five favorite moments in teaching our 8th graders about Health and Wellness.
5. ‘Health Care Inequalities’ Social Justice Lesson:
At first, we had thought that discussing the issues related to the country’s current healthcare debate would perhaps be too abstract for 8th grade students to comprehend. However, we were wrong. During one social justice lesson where we taught our students about some vocabulary related to the healthcare system, they were already very familiar with how health insurance works. Their attention and focus was surprisingly high after seven hours of classes, and one student even yelled out, “That’s so unfair!” when she learned about some of the inequalities that exist for women in our healthcare system. I feel that the understanding and interest that they showed during this lesson truly attests to the amazing education that they are receiving at Orchard Gardens, even in classes that do not have their own respective MCAS exams, like Social Studies.
4. La Alianza Hispana‘s Sex Education Program:
I would like to give a HUGE appreciation to La Alianza Hispana for their excellently executed sex education program that was incorporated into our after-school lessons during February and March. As awkward as it must be for thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds to learn about safe sex practices, it is very reassuring to know that our students will now go off to high school knowing how to keep themselves safe and healthy and how to advocate for themselves in their future romantic relationships.
3. Field Trip to Whittier Street Health Center:
The interest that our students expressed on our field trip to the Whittier Street Health Center‘s new building was certainly a pleasant surprise for all of us. From industriously taking notes during the tour to having the opportunity to learn how to take each other’s blood pressure, our first WATC field trip was certainly one of my biggest highlights so far at City Year Boston. In addition, the twenty-minute walk to and from the center was a great way to get the students some exercise after sitting in class all day!
2. Anatomy Enrichment Lesson:
Words cannot describe how amazing it was to see our students so excited and engaged by an anatomy lesson we held back in January. Not only were their eyes glued to the screen when we showed them 3D animated videos teaching them about basic human anatomy, but they were also thoroughly fascinated afterward by the dissection of a cow’s heart performed by our guest speaker, a Harvard Medical School first-year MD/PhD student.
1. Our Future Professionals and Leaders in Health Care:
“Mister, I think I want to become a doctor when I grow up.” After each health-related lesson that we have had this year, I would hear this statement from at least one new student each time. Out of all tens of thousands of interactions I have had with students this year, these are the words that have warmed my heart the most. To know that our students have such high goals and aspirations is inspiring. As the year comes to an end, it is encouraging to see that they are starting to build the motivation and determination to continue being successful in the years ahead. These students are the faces of our future healthcare system, and having been brought up in some of the most challenging neighborhoods in our community, they will be the ones who will truly have the knowledge and power to transform and revolutionize healthcare in our country.