Our final stop on the Healthy Hearts Project Tour was Fordley Primary School in Cramlington. The Healthy Hearts Project Tour was a series of six workshops for schools, funded by a Heart Research UK and Subway® Healthy Heart Grant.

Drawing on their experience of working within schools in the North Tyneside area, TICE mentors Lottie and Kath created a series of interactive and fact-filled workshops, designed to bring an awareness of the importance of heart health for children, through creative writing and illustration. At Fordley they were helped by young mentor, Karra Allen.

The aim of each of the workshops was to encourage children in years 5 and 6 to become more mindful of their lifestyle choices, with the hope of instilling healthy eating, drinking and lifestyle habits into their lives before they start at high school.

To begin the workshop at Fordley, Lottie launched into her presentation titled, “Introduction to Your Heart” that covered a wide range of fascinating facts about the heart, the role it plays in keeping us well and how we can help it to stay healthy. It drew the children into the subject by relating real world facts and figures and many of the children asked questions as Lottie spoke.

One of the facts that really amazed the children was that if you were to tie all of your veins and arteries together, the ‘string’ that would result would be long enough to go around the world – twice! This caused many open mouths and cries of, “Really?’

Next, a big bowl containing a pile of tennis balls was passed around the room. The children were asked to take a ball and to try to squeeze it with one hand. This gave them an idea of how much pressure the heart exerts and how hard it works to pump blood around our bodies. With much grimacing and huge amounts of effort, even our mentors and the class teacher could only manage to make a small impression on the balls’ surface, much to the children’s amusement.

Then, to really make the most of the next exercise, Kath took the class down to the school gym and asked everyone about their favourite ways to get fit. It transpired that Fordley School teaches Scottish Country Dancing; so Kath was treated to a brilliant display of beautiful footwork, fancy twirls and lots of giggling.

Then it was time to see how quickly we could all get out of puff. With a mixture of high kicks, star jumps, burpees (yes, really) and push ups, the children met the 30 second ping of Kath’s alarm with ease and then gathered around to see what was going to happen next.

Using a balance beam as an impromptu table, Kath showed the children how to find their pulses on their wrists. And then revealed a bowl, filled with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. This caused much interest – and a little amused confusion. Kath did a further 10 star jumps and then demonstrated how the marshmallow and toothpick can work as a mini- metronome and show the speed of the pulse.

 

What you do, is, you stick the toothpick a little way into the marshmallow, then lick the flat end of the marshmallow – and balance it on the same spot where you found your pulse. But you’re all young and fit and you need to be out of puff again! Star jumps!”

After another blast of exercise in the hall, the children set about finding their pulse and making their very own heartbeat metronomes. And they loved it. Even the teacher got involved – star jumps and all. Much respect!

Then it was back up the stairs to the classroom, where Lottie and Karra had prepared the classroom for some artwork with a selection of white cards and red ink pads on each desk. The children were asked to write their names on the cards and to be very careful with the ink. They were then shown how to make a thumbprint heart, for inclusion in the final project of the workshop – a calendar of work from all the schools that took part in the programme. This was great fun and the resulting scarlet red prints looked beautiful.

Once the children had washed their hands clean of the ink it was time for a little culinary experimentation. On the menu? Heart healthy breakfast granola.

Each child was given a plastic glass filled with low fat natural yoghurt and a spoon. And on the table the mentors placed more bowls filled with granola, jumbo oats, fresh raspberries, fresh blueberries, dried cranberries and sultanas. Karra, Lottie and Kath then went between the groups and offered the children a squeeze of runny honey or some freshly sliced banana to sweeten their concoctions. The children had great fun, experimenting with the different tastes, favours and textures – and needless to say, there wasn’t much food left at the end of the session.

The final task of the morning was to create two more pieces of artwork for the project calendar. This was one piece for the New Year, which asked about the children’s resolutions to remain healthy and stay fit, and another piece to illustrate their recipe page for the granola breakfasts.

The children were shown how to use a mixture of natural vegetable-based inks that included beetroot red and turmeric yellow, to create and design their eye-catching and original works.

By the end of the session, the students’ heads were filled with facts about their hearts, recipes for delicious granola breakfast cocktails and a keen understanding of the importance of exercise for heart health. And thankfully, neither a drop of red ink made it onto a white shirt or a smear of white yogurt made it down a crimson sweatshirt.