A healthy exchange

The best way to learn is to teach, the saying goes.

UHD students recently discovered the truth of this maxim, among other lessons, after teaching more than 80 K-12 students and their families about nutrition and health sciences as part of of a UHD service-learning project in Houston’s Northline community.

Led by Dr. Mesias Pedroza, Lecturer in Biology and Chemistry in the Department of Natural Sciences, more than 20 UHD students traveled to St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church to teach health-related concepts to students and their families at the Learning with Thomas Academy event. UHD students regularly volunteer with the pantry and clothing distribution at the Academy, and books, school supplies and backpacks were provided at the event, but the goal of the service learning session was health.

“Our students conducted health science activities and played educational games with the children, including magnetic puzzles, science experiments, and readings about nature and the human body,” Pedroza explained. “The goal is to provide valuable information to help these families learn about the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome within the Latin American community in the United States, issues related to hypertension and how individuals in this community are disproportionately affected by asthma.”

Participating students were mainly from Pedroza’s biology and biochemistry classes, but students from other UHD colleges also joined the project.

For Gopakanya “Gopa” Echarry Diaz, the service-learning experience was eye-opening. “Sometimes we take everything we have for granted. In working with these families, I have seen parents who care about their children’s future, taking opportunities like this to get involved. The data science junior added, “At such a young age, it can be hard to get students excited about science, but these kids came to the event excited and ready to learn!”

Pedroza has been leading tutoring sessions every semester for the past two years and has added the learning session format to “raise community awareness of major illnesses Latinos face and how to prevent them. Our goal is to help reduce the incidence of these diseases and the associated morbidity and mortality.

UHD service learning programs incorporates community service into courses to “enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities”. UHD students who participated in the Learning with Thomas Academy project, some of whom were involved in tutoring for several semesters, confirmed the value of the project in terms of what they learned.

Senior Biology Deena Suleiman said: “Honestly, I was surprised by how interested the kids were in the subjects. Teaching children about atherosclerosis and the heart seemed a little tricky, but they listened and understood very quickly. I learned to communicate complex information in an easier way for children to understand.

According to social work junior Veronica Hernandez, “I learned that communicating with patience and encouragement is key. Some of the children would take the whole puzzle apart when they failed and start from scratch, when all they had to do was rotate a certain piece. So just suggesting that they analyze it first and talk about the part that didn’t fit allowed me to work on my communication skills and patience. She added, “And I learned that with encouragement, they wanted to keep taking on tougher challenges.”

Omar Khan, a senior in biological and physical sciences, agreed that learning to simplify concepts for the public was essential. “Trying to make complex scientific processes and chemical reactions tangible and fun for young students has been instructive. It helped me understand how to take the concepts we learn in our college classes and translate them so a child can understand. The results were worth it, he added. “Seeing their faces go crazy for the hydrophobic effect was amazing! And it was hard – it taught me and many students. »

The learning session was such a success that Pedroza plans to hold one per semester in the future in addition to the more frequent tutoring sessions. “The community provided great feedback, saying it was informative and enjoyable. They were able to have fun with their kids, get different resources, and learn about illnesses that affect the Latino community,” he said. he said “Families came away from this event with the knowledge to make healthy decisions about their diet and lifestyle, such as exercising more and avoiding smoking.”

Diaz noted that one of the most important lessons she learned from working with Pedroza and her UHD peers was the value of teamwork: “Having a good team is like having a good community. It provides the environment that allows you to be successful,” she said, “I learn so much from my interactions with those around me.

Pedroza offers a variety of service-learning opportunities to students enrolled in its courses, although all students are encouraged to support the initiatives. Anyone interested in participating in the projects should contact him at [email protected] for more information.

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