Calexico students treat patients … er, parents, at mock hospital

July 16, 2001|By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — For one day last week, medical journals replaced text books, chalk dust was traded for powdered gloves, thermometers pushed aside yardsticks and 4-foot doctors and nurses were not out of the ordinary … or so it seemed.

On Thursday, Blanche Charles Elementary School here ceased to exist, replaced by a makeshift hospital emergency room as the fifth-grade Gifted and Talented Education students ended a four-week Discovery Channel program called Voyager Pre-med ER by demonstrating what they learned using their parents as ER patients.

Mary Ramirez, a teacher at Blanche Charles and Voyager program coordinator, said readying for such an exercise took a considerable amount of effort on the part of Ramirez and her students.

Ramirez, who has a nursing background, postponed her summer vacation as she and the kids voluntarily met from 8 a.m.-noon every weekday for four weeks. Throughout the program, the kids were taught skills like first-aid, how to handle emergencies and math concepts they had to learn for their grade level. For example, when learning about place values, the students studied it in terms of a patient's bill.


"Everything they learned (about hospitals and medicine in general) was in context of things they actually needed to know as fifth-graders," said Ramirez.

But more than anything, Ramirez added, the kids learned about leadership and working in groups.

"The students were separated into three ER teams, and they switched off being leaders and patients on different days — that made them work together. So it wasn't so much the ER curriculum and the diseases they learned about, it was leadership."

Alya Hurich, 9, who admitted she got a little bit stressed out at the mock ER front desk because of the endless stream of patients, agreed with her teacher in acknowledging that the teams needed to work especially hard to get everything accomplished.

After hearing of all the students' undertakings during the program, one might forget these kids are only 9- and 10-year-olds.

How tough was it for them?

Alya's father, Mark Hurich, 43, who is a teacher at Blanche Charles, mentioned the program was the first time his daughter had really been challenged to learn new, tough vocabulary.

"We had to look up everything in the dictionary, and even afterward we were like, ‘OK, so what do these words mean?'"

In addition, 9-year-old Mayra Castro cited time constraints and the pressure of needing to know exactly what to do at a certain time as being some of the tough aspects of the exercise, while Charles Camacho, 10, stated practicing for Thursday's ER simulation and handling patients as being "pretty hard."

Said Ramirez: "The program was a little bit difficult for the kids but at the same time it was fun. What made it so great was that it would teach the material down to their level. That's why they understood it so well."

Those parents who acted as patients were enthusiastic their children were able to participate in such a demonstration.

Hurich said the experience was a blast and he and his daughter had been looking forward to it for some time.

Justina Huie, 42, mother of 10-year-old Abraham, praised the kids for treating her as if she were a real patient, and Ramirez for teaching a program that's "going to be very useful to the children in the future, since it's giving them an idea of what they might want to study later on."

Once each parent had been examined by ER doctors, the kids performed a couple of very entertaining — and informative — plays on the circulatory and central nervous systems.

"Before today I had never known how fast the blood circulates throughout the body," said Luis Saenz, 32, about the speedy 23-second trip.

Saenz also was amazed to see the extent to which his daughter Ashley, 10, and the other kids understood the systems' functions: "They learned a lot as far as pulse rates, respiration and things like that, but I didn't think they'd know how to actually apply the principles behind them."

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