WESTFIELD — On March 13, Southampton Road Elementary School students from preschool to fourth grade participated in an obstacle course of the circulatory system, as part of the American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge.

Southampton Road Elementary School third-grader Camden Coggin prepares to crawl through a tunnel representing the pulmonary valve.
Reminder Publishing photo by Amy Porter

The students practiced jumping, balance and gymnastic skills, while hearing about how the heart is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. Physical education teacher Kate Bust said the focus of the AHA challenge is on healthy habits that can help keep hearts healthy. 

“I focus on nutrition, sleep, drinking water and physical activity.  In our PE classes, we have been focusing on our cardiovascular health, learning jumping and jump rope skills,” she said.

Before Joanne Hewins’ third grade class went through the obstacle course, Bust explained to the students that the four chambers of the heart are like a house with four rooms, and talked about the circulatory system, the relationship between the heart and lungs, red blood cells and blood vessels, and the jobs they all do every time the heart pumps 100,000 heart beats a day.

“You guys have so much power over your body,” Bust said. “The more you exercise, the stronger your heart gets.”

She said choices over decades keep the valves and aortas open, “such as the veggies and fruit in the cafeteria — to eat them or skip them. Poor choices build plaque, make the opening smaller and the blood goes slower. An athlete’s heart rate will be lower because the heart gets better at doing its job, and doesn’t have to work as hard.”

Physical education teacher Kate Bust, dressed as a Healthy Heart, teaches how the heart works. 
Reminder Publishing photo by Amy Porter

The obstacle course had obstacles labeled as arteries, heart valves and aortas that the students had to crawl through, jump over and somersault down as they carried foam pieces representing oxygen and carbon dioxide to the correct buckets.  There was also a heart rate monitor so they could check themselves at the end.

The third and fourth graders also watched a hands-only CPR video, and by the end of the week had a chance to practice on life-sized stuffed animals.

As part of the challenge, Southampton Road Elementary School students raised more than $2,400 for the American Heart Association through an online fundraiser.

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts