Along with classmates, Grace Faircloth enjoyed exploring the human body and how a nutritious apple or an unhealthy doughnut can affect it.
She was one of many students who visited the Bellamy Center at Royal Lane Park for the Speedway to Healthy Exhibit. Developed by the 4-H Youth Development of the Cooperative Extension program at North Carolina A&T State University, the 1,200-square-foot walkthrough is designed to address health and promote good choices.
For Grace, a third-grader from Mintz Christian Academy (MCA), one of the most interesting parts was learning about the heart, a muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system.
“I learned that it’s good to exercise a lot,” Grace said about the importance of staying healthy.
Sampson County Cooperative Extension hosted the exhibit Tuesday and Wednesday. It is based on a NASCAR theme and allows students to go through pit stops focusing on different parts of the body. The brain was the first and next was the mouth, where they learned the importance of brushing and flossing. It continued with the stomach, intestines and the remaining stops included the heart, lungs, kidney, bones, muscles and skin.
Elementary students from Clinton City Schools (CCS), Sampson County Schools and private institutions were invited to attend. Aubrey Herring, a third-grader from MCA, took away many lessons from the exhibit.
“I learned not to smoke and not to have (unhealthy) drinks,” Aubrey said.
David Joiner, an educator from New Life Christian Academy, said the presenters kept the attention of students as they went through. He added that adults can learn a lot as well.
“It’s been very helpful for the teachers,” Joiner said. “We can go back to our school and be able to apply what we learned here with our textbooks and lessons in our classrooms.”
Lethia Lee, a program assistant for Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, kept things interactive by showing pictures of food. If it was nutritious, the students collectively responded with an excited “go!” If it was something they need to be cautious of like cake, the response was “whoa!”
“I really think it’s really exciting,” Lee said. “I’m really glad it came to Sampson County to give our students a chance to see and understand health and nutrition.”
She said it was a good and colorful visual aid for teaching nutrition. The walls in her pit stop showed pictures of good foods such as fruits and vegetables that made the body “happy” and “sad” foods that are not nutritious.
“This is how they learn — by seeing,” Lee said. “You can get up, talk and explain a whole lot to children. But they really don’t understand it until they see it.”
Lee hopes it returns to Sampson County soon, so it can benefit more children in the area.
Sydney Johnson, Family & Consumer Science agent for Cooperative Extension, hopes the students make healthier decisions such as eating more fruits and vegetables.
“I would love to see us cutting back on our soda intake and drinking a lot more water,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, the kids will learn a little bit more and want to go home and start eating healthier.”
Many volunteers and organizations such as the Rotary Club, assisted with the project. Some of them included nurses, retired teacher and members of the Healthy Carolinians. Lunch for volunteers was sponsored by Ribeyes Steakhouse, Mi Finca, Sandpiper and Southern Style.
“We had a great response from different partnerships in the community,” Johnson said.
Courtney Carrington, nutrition program assistant for N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension, educated students at the muscle pit stop.
“A lot of kids don’t get all the information they need to know about the body,” she said about essential parts such as the brain, mouth, stomach, the kidneys, the heart and lungs. “All of that is very important and a lot of kids right now, don’t get that information. So we give a lot of information throughout this exhibit and they can go home and tell their friends and family what they learned and what to do.”
One of her lessons included the importance of drinking eight glasses of water a day. She said some students don’t like the taste of water, so one way to enjoy it is to infuse it with fruits and vegetables.
Jeff Swartz, child nutrition director for CCS, began the journey by showing students how the brain is a command center for the rest of the body.
“I think it’s wonderful to get this exhibit here,” Swartz said. “It really helps the kids understand how everything fits into the body and why it’s important to eat certain things and have a proper diet.”