In 1990 and 1991 two nurses from Cleveland, Ohio health systems founded programs that taught children several levels of health in the elementary school setting. The “Caring Children Program” was taught in the classroom and other community settings as a team effort with nurses and children. Teaching focused on preventive health, education and understanding through hands-on skills and active participation.
All the children participated in the pilot program with signed consent by their parents. No child was left behind. These nurses identified an additional need for education in the school system, beginning at the kindergarten level or age of 5 and 6 year old children. They believed that implementing their program over a period of 13 years all children would be educated thoroughly in identifying healthy behaviors, helping others, and creating a society that accepts others without discrimination.
There were several techniques used in the program, but the most profound areas included the following three levels: First level, was basic hygiene, with an emphasis on hand washing to prevent illness. Second level, was understanding differences, challenges, disabilities and abilities. Finally, teaching ways children could help others, and accept people for who they are and demystify discrimination, ideally eliminating discrimination.
The program was based on promoting awareness of self and surroundings at a young age. By this increasing self-esteem, self-awareness, self-circumstances, self-reliance, and just SELF. Five to six year olds appeared to understand far more than expected.
This was a delightful experience. Children were actively involved using wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and a number of other rehabilitation adaptive devices. They were more than willing to have their legs and arms splinted and wrapped. Pretending was fun!
While we prepared the children with a different challenge, they quickly found a way to adapt to their environment or ask for help and problem solve the challenge we provided them. Laughter and play were highlights of this program! Music and songs were part of the teaching process. Many activities were outdoors, weather permitting. Other activities were in the gymnasium and some in classrooms.
Children found ways to adapt quicker than adults. They didn’t become frustrated and we believed if we taught them safer ways to manage daily hygiene, provide them with a better understanding of challenges, teach them about differences, it may change the way these youngsters manage challenges later in life. We learned from the children as well.
Responses from these youngsters were amazing. Children understood differences and were willing to accept and help others. They expressed concerns and challenges in life. Every child knew someone dealing with challenges and were actively involved in this program. It was surprising to hear many children describe challenges their own parents never knew they had. All the children were preoccupied with concerns about their “mommy” and/or “daddy”. Even if their concerns didn’t appear real, they were real in the eyes of these 5 and 6 year olds.
Somewhere things change during school years and “bullying” occurs. If only we could have seen this program to fruition. It was the goal of these nurses to implement this program into the school systems. Unfortunately, my life changed and plans to implement this program in our school systems fell apart.
Because of workplace violence in the healthcare system, this goal was not reachable by these nurses. That nurse has never given up hope. Hope that someday, someone may want the idea … but funding in all areas of education and healthcare have been curtailed! This is a national issue, not solely a parental issue.
Every child deserves to learn preventive health beginning in elementary school when change is easy. Healthy behaviors in children are essential to becoming healthy adults. Now, 21 years later I wonder where all those young adults are? Those once innocent children, who learned so well with play.
They are now the energy of our society. They are the lawyers, doctors, veterinarians, technicians, mechanics, politicians, clerks, students and many other fields of discipline. They live everywhere: most throughout America, others throughout the world. Right now, I only hope they all had the opportunity to grow up.
It’s amazing that an entire class of five and six year olds could wash their hands with such enthusiasm. Lathering up, washing their little hands up to the elbow! Bubbles filled the classroom … bubbles on the playground ….bubbles every where! There is nothing better than learning and having fun!
Fun was something the 6 and 7 year olds in Connecticut expected on December 14, 2012. These innocent little children will forever be remembered … for all they did in their short life, the joy and happiness they brought to everyone whose hearts they’ve captured, the tight hugs they gave with unconditional love. They are angels in heaven now, wiping away our tears so we can learn, play, laugh and have fun again!
The courageous teachers who survived and protected children, while some lost their lives caring for these children. They are all heroes.
There really are no other words for this horrific crime! I am speechless, and we all will laugh again at the precious moments children bring to our lives.
In remembrance of children and adults who lost their lives in Connecticut and throughout the world to violence.
Obviously, there is something we haven’t learned yet!
- Can You Measure an Education? Can You Define Life’s Meaning? (psychologytoday.com)
- Middlesex student creates ‘Magic Mirror’ to teach children (mdx.ac.uk)