Thursday, May 24, 2007

MedTeach = Awesome

Craig showing a gross specimen of a liver to 4th graders at Alamo elementary school
Yesterday, we taught our final lesson to the students at Alamo elementary school. It was a lesson on the BRAIN -- and we had 4 stations. One station, manned by Craig, showed the students a gross specimen of the brain and compared it to a gross specimen of a rat brain. The kids love putting on gloves and touching the preserved organs (heart, liver, intestines, brain). Sarah taught the children how to use reflex hammers and tuning forks, showing them the basics of the patellar reflexes and how there are different senses of touch (temperature, vibration, etc.). The teacher taught students how goggles that trick the eye into seeing double force your cerebellum to adapt during a nose-to-finger drill, and how your brain has to re-adapt when the goggles are removed.
I taught a station on the spinal cord and had the kids line up into two rows with one kid at the tip of human "V." The kid would be the brain, while one row of kids would form the sensory pathway, and the other line would form the motor pathway. Then, we demonstrated how the sensation of a fish biting your foot travels up as a pain signal through the sensory pathway, and how your brain senses the pain and decides to retaliate by punching the fish in the face by sending a "punch the fish" signal down the motor pathway. Then, we created a large space between two kids in each pathway and showed how the signal "dies out" during a spinal cord injury. For some advanced groups, I would also show them how a spinal reflex works by sending a "reflex hammer hit" sensory signal up the sensory pathway, force the signal to cross over in the spinal cord to the motor pathway, bypassing the brain, and how the motor pathway would send your leg flying into the air without the brain's control.
Tonight, we had an end-of-the-year MedTeach banquet and it was awesome. MedTeach is part of a larger group called the Science and Education Partnership (SEP). SEP does some really incredible work by connecting medical students and classrooms full of bright, eager, young kids. It was a great opportunity to get into the classroom and interact with these children (all Jeremy's age!), learn how to teach little kids and become a better communicator, and to share our newfound medical knowledge. Hopefully, the children have also gained a better understanding of the human body, learned the basis behind healthy eating habits and lifestyles (like not smoking), and perhaps inspired to consider a career in the health sciences.
Overall, MedTeach is an extremely rewarding experience for both the teachers and the students. Hopefully, both parties have taken something away from the interaction. This sentiment reminds of a quote:
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung, Swiss psychologist (1875 - 1961)
I am transformed!

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