Monkseaton Middle School, Healthy Hearts Project – 8th November

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On the 8th November, our TICE mentors, Lottie and Kath, made their way to Monkseaton Middle School for the second 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 have created a series of workshops that will bring an awareness of heart health through creative writing and illustration. We aim to encourage children aged 8-11 to become more independent in their lifestyle choices, with the hope to instil healthy eating, drinking and lifestyle habits into their lives before they start at high school.

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The afternoon began with a brief presentation from Lottie, kicking things off with a very clear and focused overview on the premise of a healthy heart – primarily encouraging the children to draw on familiar, day-to-day experiences. The enthusiasm oozed out of the entire class as soon as Lottie opened her mouth! After this, the students are encouraged to do a practical ‘scientific experiment’ involving tennis ball squeezing, cocktail stick fiddling and the iconic entertainment of blue tack. Who knew that fun about the heart could be possible?

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The classroom was then put to the ultimate test. Smoothie making. They were separated into groups and given a handy plate of fruits/herbs, expected to create their very own smoothie. Not only does this task involve creating something tasty (which was of course, a hope for everyone) but they also had the challenge of working in a team. It was wonderful to see the overwhelming amount of communication between the students as they had shown genuine care in their creative license.

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Lottie scurried around each team with her blender, excitedly giving the students the final product and the best part, the test taste. As seen by some photographs, it didn’t go exactly to plan… all in good fun!

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The students were expected to evaluate their final product through creative writing, particularly channeling a happy, youthful tone that are regularly used in commercial products such as Innocent smoothies. Children were writing with innovative thought…many were attempting to describe their smoothies without using the word ‘EW!’, whilst found it as a perfect opportunity to try 10 shots of the smoothie to make their mind up! Kath stepped in with a few questions on how Monkseaton students maintain their healthy lifestyle whilst they were writing. It was interesting to find out how many walk their dogs, do gymnastics, bike to wherever they need to go. Many were eager to share what they enjoy outside of school hours and it was a nice way to get them thinking of ways to keep fit. Particularly with dog walking, it was secretly difficult to not discuss breeds and names!

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As this was discussed, Lottie handed out a coloured-paper heart out to each student, giving them permission to draw what they wish on them. The idea is that the heart icon running throughout illustration work and collage techniques will embed healthy heart imagery and associations. To continue this theme, they wrote their names on tags, followed by the chance to use stamped ink and use their thumbs to create little red hearts. The students were scurrying into a queue so they could press their thumb onto the ink pad. Adorable, right!? Well, the results were just as adorable.

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To end the afternoon, Lottie gathered all the students around for the final mini-task. With various templates of healthy illustrations, they were asked to recreate them with the use of natural dyes, including turmeric and fruit juices. They were encouraged to use straws and blow the natural dyes onto the paper – so messy but SO FUN! They tackled their final project with so much dedication, running up and asking ‘okay, which drawing have I copied?’. It’s fair to say that every single one of them were doing an impeccable job, communicating with another and treating the afternoon with so much commitment and care.

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It was evident that the children were completely immersed in these activities – talking about health and the heart with such passion and engagement. It was especially encouraging when one student exclaimed: ‘This is the best science lesson I’ve ever had!’, followed by a class full of smiles and excitement. It seems that Monkseaton Middle School have future heart health experts in the making!