Penn. Sixth-Graders Meet Paramedics, Learn CPR
The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
May 7—There may not have been a single sixth-grader Friday morning at West Hill Elementary who had heard of the Bee Gees, but "Stayin' Alive" was the theme of the day, in more ways than one.
As a part of the Healthy Kids Program, Sharon Regional's behavioral health and services team was on hand at the school to teach students the basics of "hands only" CPR by performing chest compressions to the 1970s hit disco tune, which is played at 103 beats per minute, the correct tempo for CPR chest compressions.
"We're teaching kids what to do in case of emergency," Sharon Regional stroke and cardiac care coordinator Brittany Douglas said. "And we're having fun doing it."
Traci Barber, an aide at the school and event facilitator, said sixth grade is the perfect time for students to start learning these kinds of skills.
"If we start now, everyone in high school will know how to do it," she said. "It's a skill they will have for a lifetime."
At another station inside one of the classrooms, students learned about bullying and different coping techniques in a demonstration led by Lisa Young and Jennifer Marinao of Sharon Regional.
"Middle school, right around sixth grade, is when bullying really starts to pick up," Marinao said.
A few student volunteers stepped to the front of the class for a "stress balloon" demonstration. Young asked each student about small incidents which may have bothered them throughout the week, and had them blow up the balloon a little bit more with each affirmative answer.
"It's not always as easy to see people's stress as it is right now," she said, pointing to the balloons. "People usually carry their stress on the inside."
Outside, 29-year paramedic veteran Rich Bulger led students on a tour of one of McGonigle Ambulance Service's newest vehicles.
"That was the coolest part," sixth-grader Saed Karakra said. "I've never been inside of one before."
Bulger said it's important for kids to learn the basics of emergency procedures just in case they are the only ones around when an adult suffers an episode.
"It's not as uncommon as you might think," he said. "We actually had a 12-year-old not long ago who performed CPR on his mother until paramedics could arrive, and it saved her."
Douglas said it's important to have kids spend time with a paramedic in case they should ever have to interact with one in a real-life emergency situation.
"We're teaching them not to be scared of paramedics," she said. "They need to feel comfortable being able to talk and ask questions if they see one."
Bulger said that sometimes he even prefers to deal with children rather than adults when he responds to an emergency call.
"They are usually more truthful because there aren't any preconceived notions to what they should or should not say," he said. "Their only concern is that their family member gets better."
But the biggest takeaway from the event, Douglas said, is to make sure the students know what to do if they are ever called upon to help save a life.
"We know these kids can do it," she said.