Health fair educates local children

Friday, October 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:58 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jane Garrett counted slowly out loud as she poured teaspoons of sugar into a glass of water.

“One, two, three,” she counted up to nine.

Nine teaspoons of sugar; that’s the amount of sugar in one can of soda — a shocking statistic for the students of Paxton Keeley Elementary who watched Garrett’s presen-tation Thursday.

Garrett, a licensed dietitian, spoke as part of the school’s health fair. She educated students about nutrition, focusing on the beverages they drink.

Garrett polled the students on their drinking habits.

“If a third of these students are drinking a soda every day, that’s a lot of empty calories, and it can cause problems with tooth decay,” Garrett said. “The earlier you start educating on how potentially damaging these things can be, the better.”

Garrett’s presentation on nutrition was one of 14 sessions students attended Thursday. Each activity was centered on the theme of healthy living.

MU volleyball player Nicole Wilson also spoke with students.

“I told them what I do on a daily basis in terms of nutrition and exercise. We talked about how to stay active, and I gave them a little idea about how the heart works,” Wilson said.

Parent volunteers and Columbia firefighters set up a computer-simulated phone system on which students could dial 911 and answer a series of questions about a mock emergency.

In all, more than 50 parents volunteered at the event, organized by School Nurse Sandy Gray and parent Melanie Stalock.

Gray said there are several benefits to having the fair.

“It gives kids the opportunity to learn about healthy lifestyles while doing a fun activity. We’re teaching children the activities and lifestyle to prevent diseases as they age,” Gray said.

Principal Elaine Hassemer said the day’s events were also tied to the health curriculum that all students receive.

In addition to presentations, students received screenings for high blood pressure, vision, hearing, dental and possible scoliosis.

Identifying problems will help parents monitor them as needed, Hassemer said.

Todd Scott volunteered his time to perform dental screenings.

“We do a general screening and then make recommendations such as dental cleaning or orthodontic consultation on a paper that will be sent to parents,” Scott said.

Hassemer said the screenings would usually be performed during the school year but that the fair allows for more children to be seen in a shorter time frame.

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