Denbigh Primary School, Healthy Hearts Project – 17th November

On the 17th November, our TICE mentors, Lottie and Kath, made their way to Denbigh Primary School for the fourth instalment of the Healthy Hearts project, funded by Heart Research UK and Subway® Healthy Heart Grant. Drawing on our experience of working within schools in the North Tyneside area, TICE has created a series of workshops to bring an awareness of the importance of heart health through creative writing and illustration.

The aim of the workshops was to encourage children aged 8-11 to become more independent in their lifestyle choices, with the hope of instilling healthy eating, drinking and lifestyle habits into their lives before they start at high school.

The afternoon began with a brief presentation from Lottie, who kicked things off with a clear and focused overview on what’s involved in keeping our hearts healthy  – the presentation encouraged the children to draw on their familiar, day-to-day experiences like exercising, eating and drinking. There was enthusiasm from the entire class as soon as Lottie began with raised eyebrows, open mouth and lots of questions. Who knew that if you tied together all the capillaries, arteries and veins in the body you could wrap them around the world – twice?

After the presentation, the students were helped to do a series of practical scientific experiments that involved squeezing a tennis ball in one hand to understand how hard our hearts work to pump our blood and using cocktail sticks and mini marshmallows to mark each child’s pulse rate. There was a great spirit of competition as Lottie and Kath explained that this particular exercise, “works best if you’re out of breath.” We all stood back and watched as the class rose as one to complete a full 30-seconds of star jumps, high kicks and press ups. Who knew that learning about the heart could be such fun – and so tiring?

The children were then moved into small groups and given a recipe sheet. On today’s menu? Homemade hummus and a selection of vegetable dippers that included celery, red and yellow peppers and carrots. Not only did this task involve creating something tasty but the children also had the challenge of working together as a team. Armed with a knife, chopping board and lemon squeezer, the children got to work, slicing and dicing their vegetable dippers and preparing lemon juice and fresh herbs for their hummus. Each team then took it in turns to take their lemon juice and herb mixture to Kath who added it to a base of olive oil, chick peas, garlic and tahini and blended each group’s version of the dish. Then it was time to taste their creations.

The children were asked to describe their hummus in words using similes that were a little bit out of the ordinary. One child said that it reminded him of parties because it smelled of garlic bread, another described the smell as ‘summer holiday dinners.’ They were certainly very thoughtful as they attempted to describe the texture and tastes in front of them. As they wrote down their thoughts, Kath asked them some questions about keeping their hearts healthy with different forms of exercise. It was interesting to find out how many walk their dogs, do gymnastics and bike to wherever they need to go. Many of the children were eager to share what they enjoy doing outside of school hours and it was a nice way to get them thinking of different ways to keep fit.

The next activity involved everyone washing their hands and then creating a thumb printed tag, like a small red signature, on a small piece of card. This way we had a piece of work from each child who had taken part in the day before things got really messy! Using two thumb prints – one facing left, one facing right and joined in the middle, the children created a heart icon that ran throughout their illustration work and collage techniques, embedding healthy heart imagery and associations into the workshop learning.

To end the afternoon, Lottie gathered all the students around for a demonstration of the final task. With illustrations of the vegetables they had chopped up and the ingredients they’d used in their hummus, the children were shown how to make collaged images with the use of natural inks, including turmeric and beetroot ink. They were encouraged to use straws and blow the natural dyes onto the paper – a very messy but very enjoyable creative exercise. They tackled their final project with great care and consideration, tracing around the images of their chosen subjects and glueing and sticking papers to layer their creations with beautiful colours and textures.

As the time for the final school bell of the day drew near, the Denbigh students did an excellent job of helping to clear up their classroom. With all the tennis balls, vegetable inks and cocktail sticks packed away it was time to head home, taking their healthy hearts with them.