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Austin Peay State University Professors, Students work with Customs House Museum to create Children’s Health Fair

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – After she conquered the “Have a Blast: Fun Fitness Games” portion of April 2nd’s “Ready, Set, Know: A Children’s Health Fair,” 8-year-old Lily Dunn paused to catch her breath.

“This. Is. So. Much. Fun!” she said between gasps.

Then, rosy cheeks and all, she dashed off to another of the fair’s interactive stops – a safety booth where Austin Peay State University (APSU) students told Lily what she needed to do to stay safe during a house fire.
She stopped, dropped, and rolled through a cardboard maze before emerging and asking – still breathless – “What’s next?”
That’s how the day went for dozens of other children and their families at the first-ever “Ready, Set, Know: A Children’s Health Fair” at Customs House Museum & Cultural Center.

A collaboration between the museum and Austin Peay State University helped to fuel the fair’s success – and sent children home happy and filled with new public health knowledge.

A Partnership to Help Children Learn

Lily Dunn, center, creates a clay model of the coronavirus. (APSU)
Lily Dunn, center, creates a clay model of the coronavirus. (APSU)

An Austin Peay State University professor’s idea sparked the collaboration that created the fair.

In January, Dr. Tyler Nolting, an assistant professor in the APSU Department of Health and Human Performance, met the museum’s education associate, Pat Purnell, and curator of education, Sue Lewis, to discuss having his students host public health booths at the center.

“We just started chatting about it, and this idea was born,” Nolting said.
The idea started with a focus on public health booths created by and run by Nolting’s “Capstone for Public Health” (HHP 4800) students.
“The healthcare booths were the backbone, but then we decided to take the theme of a health fair and expand,” Purnell said. “To do the pretend-play area, the kid’s clinic, youth cardio-blast sessions.”
Nolting connected with other Austin Peay State University departments to help with the fair, which was sponsored by Dr. Ramon Aquino and Debbie Aquino. The Community Outreach and Sustainability office helped secure grant money for the public health booths.

The School of Nursing sent students to help with other interactive areas at the fair, which included:

  • “The Kid’s Clinic: A Pretend-Play Area” where Austin Peay nursing students helped children care for their favorite dolls or stuffed animals.
  • “Make-A-Microbe Craft Activity” where Austin Peay medical laboratory science and nursing students helped children use clay to build a coronavirus model.
  • “Boogers & Burps: Fun Science Videos” where children learned amazing things about the human body.
  • “Have A Blast: Fun Fitness Games” where children played fitness games such as “Sharks and Minnows” to get their bodies moving.

Austin Peay State University professors also shared their expertise.

Professor Terri Crutcher, an assistant professor in the APSU Department of Allied Health Sciences and clinical coordinator for the radiography program, helped children in “The Kid’s Clinic” with getting X-rays of their stuffed animal’s ailments.

Dr. Heather Phillips, a medical laboratory sciences assistant professor and director of laboratory testing at Austin Peay State University, helped children in the “Make-A-Microbe” exhibit look through microscopes at real cells, bacteria, and viruses.

Giving College Students Hands-On Experiences

Samantha Shemwell works at the helmet safety booth. (APSU)
Samantha Shemwell works at the helmet safety booth. (APSU)

The fair not only helped young children make healthy connections in their lives, but it also helped the APSU students who participated.

The fair provided Nolting’s public health students not only a capstone project for the class but also the chance to work in a hands-on public health setting. The students also volunteered for two hours at the museum.

“Students in public health who want to become health educators or anyone in public health, needs to know how to interact with the public and educate them,” Purnell said. “This gives them an opportunity to do that up close, in person, firsthand.”

Two of Nolting’s students, Samantha Shemwell and Amanda Martinez, created a helmet safety booth at the fair.
“This has helped me to realize how much goes into planning events like this,” Martinez said. “Being a part of this, I have an understanding that you have to apply for grants, do the paperwork, research.”
Added Shemwell, who already has years of experience in public health including a new position at the Todd County (Kentucky) Health Department, spoke about studying public health.
“It’s good regardless of if you’ve been in the field or new to this,” she said. “It gives you more insight on what the populations needs, what the major issues are that we need to address.”

These experiences matter, Nolting said.

“I’m excited that my students experienced this,” he said. “Experiential learning is probably one of the highest forms of learning when students can do something themselves.”

“It was so fulfilling to stand back and watch the students in action, applying everything that they had prepared and created throughout the semester in class,” he added. “I liken this to Coach John Wooden’s teaching philosophy, where he said, ‘If I had done my job effectively as a teacher during the week, I felt I could virtually go up in the stands and watch the team compete. They should know what to do without me telling them.’”

What’s Next

The public health booths were in the Orgain Gallery of the museum. (APSU)
The public health booths were in the Orgain Gallery of the museum. (APSU)

Purnell and Nolting haven’t decided if they’ll plan a second children’s health fair. Regardless, they’ll continue to collaborate, and both said they’ll continue to work with other departments at Austin Peay State University.

“I see this whole project as just the epitome of what a good partnership is,” Purnell said. “We’re both bringing something to the table, and we’re doing something larger than either one of us could have done ourselves.

“I briefly had a conversation about so many other opportunities that will be coming up,” she added. “All kinds of partnerships where we can have them come and share their expertise and resources.”


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