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Students Mentor Youth to Boost Health and STEM

Student and teacher taking part in science lesson
Can better performance in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) result in healthier kids in the Bronx?
 

This is a question three of my friends at Einstein (Rohan Biswas, Kevin Shieh, Andrew Johnston) and I thought closely about and researched when we created Hoops 4 Health in the winter of 2013.

Our goal with Hoops 4 Health is to expose the youth of the Bronx community to STEM programs at the same time as we promote physical activity and wellness.

Looking into the topic, we found some evidence to support a correlation between education level and health status. Students who actively engage and perform well in STEM curricula tend to understand their overall health status better and be found at the top of their classes in academics.

This is especially important in Bronx County, which, since 2010, has received the lowest health rankings of any of New York State’s 62 counties, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and lags behind New York City’s other four boroughs in high school graduation rates.

Where to Begin?
Studies have shown that disengagement in STEM can begin as early as sixth grade; therefore emphasis on these subjects needs to be stressed as early as possible to solidify scientific aspirations and, it is hoped, boost overall academic achievement.   In an attempt to move the needle, Hoops 4 Health joined forces with the New South Bronx Center Police Athletic League (PAL) and a local community organization that shares our mission and goals, Doctors for a Healthier Bronx (DHB).

We are currently in the early stages of our mentoring at the PAL, but the students and center director are excited. We have two groups of students, fourth graders and fifth through eighth graders. With both groups we teach a science or medical concept of the day that relates to their local community, and then conduct a hands-on science experiment with them to put it in practice.

A Fitness Follow-Up
We follow this up by engaging students in team-based sports in the PAL gymnasium to stress the importance of physical fitness. This also allows us to extend our conversations about STEM. We then send them off to participate in an event called C-BALL (Community Board Athletic League), a monthly basketball camp, for an hour or two. Trained coaches teach them basic basketball skills and encourage them to work more athletic activity into their daily lives. The kids really seem to love it.

Working with DHB, on the first Saturday of every month, we visit one of the twelve Bronx community boards and conduct routine primary healthcare screenings for children ranging in age from 5 to 17. Here we can educate the children and their parents and guardians about the importance of healthcare and how to assess its improvement.

Recently, we participated in DHB’s 15th Community Walkathon and Fair, held at P.S. 89. We assisted in setting up and planning the event, and we walked with the children. And though summer is traditionally when kids go out to play, we’ll keep sharing STEM lessons as we work with the PAL students to help create and implement exciting project ideas at their annual summer science fair.

This fall, we hope to share our passion for this project with the incoming class at Einstein, so that we continue to increase our impact.

Whatever the future holds for Hoops 4 Health, just witnessing the curiosity and thoughtful questions these students communicate about science is truly an amazing experience and one that we hope leads to a healthier, more productive and more active future for them.

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Kim Ohaegbulam

Kim Ohaegbulam

Kim Ohaegbulam is a fifth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student in the department of microbiology & immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine studying cancer immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Xingxing Zang.

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