BY IZZY XU, First-Year Communications Intern
Nineteen Forest View fourth graders got to be doctors for a weekend at this month’s Duke Med Elementary Weekend Conference, held at Duke South and funded in part by Duke’s Doing Good in the Neighborhoodemployee giving campaign. During the conference, fourth graders learned about heart, diet and exercise through fun hands-on activities.
Duke Med Elementary was launched last fall by Duke medical students Navid Pourtaheri and Melodi Javid (both Schweitzer Fellows). They hope that through this series of weekend conferences, students from Durham public schools will take charge of their physical and mental health and share their newfound knowledge with peers and families.
“We believe it is important to start early to nurture kids’ interest in science and medicine,” Javid said. “We also hope to follow up with what they learn at school, as they start biological science in third grade.”
Throughout the weekend, students took ownership of the conference room and filled it with energy and laughter. The conference followed a flexible schedule tailored toward fourth graders. Lectures were interactive and delivered in simple language, and students gained knowledge that pertains to daily life, such as how to choose healthy snacks and assess the nutrition value of vegetables based on colors.
Students maintained enthusiasm throughout the program and showed impressive familiarity with medical terms in comments such as, “I’m allergic to worksheets.” Students were also able to engage in hands-on activities, using equipment like stethoscopes and, most excitingly, examining and dissecting real cow hearts.
The weekend conference for Forest View was the fourth of the 2010-2011 series, consisting of eight in total to serve the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership elementary schools. Pourtaheri and Javid have worked hard to attract students, holding “pep rallies” and reminding students about permission slips. And to ensure the program’s continuity, Pourtaheri and Navid are involving first-year medical students as conference volunteers.