A team of six Thompson River University Nursing students came together to teach Nesika Elementary students about the human body, sexuality and drugs during a wellness clinic earlier this month.
As children near the age where they will start to mature into adults, questions will naturally arise about their health, their bodies and responsibilities as developing members of society. While teachers do their best to answer these questions, sometimes it’s best to leave it up to health care professionals.
This thinking, at least in part, is what inspired Nesika and TRU to team up on Friday, Dec. 7 to teach students in Grade 5 and Grade 6 about a wide range of topics the students themselves selected. It was the responsibility of six practical nursing students to then research each topic and share their finding in a digestible way at the wellness clinic.
Two of these future nurses were Preeti Bisla, originally from Squamish, and Jody Silzer, originally from Lillooet, who are both in their third semester at TRU. Thus far both said that they’ve really enjoyed the program and what they’ve learned here in Williams Lake.
“I like how involved the teachers are and that they really care about you succeeding, it’s been a really great experience,” Bisla said.
For Bisla, nursing has been something she’s always wanted to do ever since she was a young girl playing with a stethoscope and other medical toys. Taking care of others, especially older people who have “done so much for us” is the least we can do, she feels.
Silzer said she enjoys the practical nature of the program and feels that the healthcare system is one that needs a lot of workers to support it. As her mother also works as a care aide, she feels the impulse to help heal others was already in the family so to speak.
Prior to the wellness clinic Bisla said that she and the other nursing students came up with a survey they took to Nesika where they just asked them a bunch of questions on what they would like to learn about. Healthy relationships, LGBTQ, safe sex, hygiene, drug use, anxiety and depression were all things the students said they were interested in but did not have all the information on.
After receiving the results Bisla and the others sifted through and condensed the answers down to the most popular topics and then each picked a topic to research and discuss with the students. As there are only six students in the practical nursing program, there were more topics than people so some of them combined topics such as Healthy Relationship and LGBTQ, Hygiene and Puberty and Anxiety and Depression.
“We just tried to make (each topic) fun and inviting so it’d be something the kids would like to learn about,” Bisla said.
Their biggest challenge was to simplify each topic to an elementary level, while still conveying the most important information, Bisla said. Silzer agreed and said getting the information on a board so the students could follow it was an added level of difficulty. However, in her research Silzer said she found tons of great resources online to draw upon, some of which she was able to use at her station.
In fact, it’s because of the online information age that exists today that makes Bisla believe it’s more important than ever to hold wellness clinic like these for elementary students.
The Internet means that all this information, not to mention misinformation, is out there accessible to anyone, so she feels it’s nice to present it to them in a “safe place” where they can ask questions.
Students were interested in drug use specifically, Bisla said, as many did not know what needles looked like or if vaping was considered a drug. She feels teaching them about what drugs actually are, rather than just telling them not to do them, is far more valuable for the students in the long term.
“Starting in elementary school when they’re younger, in Grade 5 and 6, they’re at that age where they’re still pretty interested and curious about things but they’re not at the stage where they’re ‘to cool’ to learn about that stuff,” Silzer observed. “The younger you start, the more they’ll be able to learn and implement it later in life.”
A big focus for Bisla, meanwhile, was teaching the students who visited her booth about the concept of consent. Many of them she said didn’t realize they could take their consent back after giving it, which was something she was sure to drive home.
The actual process of teaching them was quite enjoyable for the two of them as they got to interact with children with a wide range of knowledge in the various topics. Silzer herself enjoyed making an eye-catching display to help teach the more visual learners, while Bisla hopes the students will pass the knowledge on to siblings and friends.
Over the course of the day, four classes consisting of around 100 students came through the TRU campus to attend the wellness clinic. Each one was armed with a passport to stamp at each station where they received some candy, pencils and other goodies.