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Riley Avenue first graders become “Heartists”

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Students at Riley Avenue Elementary School are learning about heart health in a creative way. Sheila Davies volunteered to teach a unit on heart health and the healing properties of art to the first graders at Riley Avenue in a program she calls the “Heartist” project.

Davies is a nurse practitioner at North Shore University Hospital LIJ and a parent of a first grader at the Riley Avenue School in Calverton. She and two colleagues shared information with the children about what they need to do to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. They discussed elements of a healthy diet, exercise, and behaviors that can interfere with heart health.

“This is a fantastic parent-initiated program,” Riley Avenue Principal David Enos said. “The program works on so many levels, and it is a great example of character education and community service of the highest order. We’re very thankful to Ms. Davies and the North Shore University Hospital for initiating this program for our students.”

The first graders worked in small groups to learn about how the heart pumps, making the sound of a pumping heart as Davies pumped a sponge heart. The students got their own hands-on time by working together to assemble and examine plastic models of the heart. They also paired up to use a stethoscope to listen to each others’ hearts before and after vigorous exercise.

After Thanksgiving, the school’s art teacher, Melissa Haupt, will work with the first graders to make art projects that will be displayed at North Shore University Hospital. The art that the students create will be professionally framed and hung throughout the cardiothoracic unit of the hospital.

“We will be developing a slide show to present to these little ‘Heartists’,” Davies said. “We want the children to know that they can make a difference and aid in the recovery of patients through their art. The Cardiothoracic Department will be giving each ‘Heartist’ a special gift to thank them. In the spring, we will return to show them the slideshow of some of the patients and staff enjoying their art.”

The program took place at Riley Avenue Elementary School on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 19 and 20, in the first grade classrooms.

Source: Riverhead Central School District press release issued Nov. 19, 2012.