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UW-Eau Claire Nursing and Middle School Students Develop Health Programs for Area Youth

Editors Note: For information about interview and photo/video opportunities during the Sept. 25 session, contact Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhorn, Ph.D./RN, at 715-836-5005 or

RELEASED: Sept. 16, 2008

Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhor
Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhorn

EAU CLAIRE —Nursing students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will team with gifted and talented students from Eau Claire middle schools to develop health-related teaching projects, which they hope to eventually present to children at local elementary schools.

"Gifted and talented middle school students will share their ideas with nursing students about health-related activities that will benefit elementary-school aged children," said Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhorn, associate professor of nursing and a registered nurse. "Nursing students will work with the middle school students to develop dynamic health and wellness opportunities for elementary students."

The 40 nursing students and 40 middle school students in the program will meet at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 25 in rooms 119 and 119A of the Nursing Building on lower campus.

During the two-hour planning session, the university and middle school students will form teams according to national priority health areas identified in the recent Surgeon General report, Healthy People 2010. Some of the goals include reducing overweight and obesity; enhancing mental health and physical fitness; avoiding tobacco and alcohol use; caring for the environment; and seeking practical ways to prevent illness and injuries.

"The teaching projects that emerge from the planning session will focus on healthy behaviors and be created in a way that are appropriate to present to elementary students," program coordinator Kirkhorn said, noting that all projects will be approved by nursing and elementary school faculty, school administrators and parent groups before being presented to school-age children.

Plans to present projects in some Eau Claire area elementary schools are on the horizon, Kirkhorn said. Organizers hope there is great interest and participation in the project among members of the local community, she said.

"There is a need to enhance health and wellness throughout the United States," Kirkhorn said. "We hope to develop practical, innovative strategies and techniques for delivering messages about healthy living. We want elementary school children to use the information in their daily lives."

All students seeking bachelor's of nursing degrees at UW-Eau Claire are required to create a health-related teaching/learning project, Kirkhorn said. Bringing gifted and talented middle school students into the discussion should add fresh ideas and valuable perspective to the conversation, she said. It also gives the young people an opportunity to assist nursing students to develop health-related lessons geared toward the pediatric population, she said, adding that participating students are from South, Northstar and DeLong middle schools.

Introducing gifted and talented young people to the field of nursing is a secondary goal of the project, Kirkhorn said.

"The nursing profession is in great need," Kirkhorn said. "Wisconsin alone faces a projected 13 percent shortage in the next 15 years. The need to attract intelligent minds to the nursing profession is very real. This exposes middle school students to the realities of the nursing field as seen through the eyes of a nursing student. We hope it will help these bright young people understand the opportunities and creative challenges a degree in nursing offers them."

In addition to Kirkhorn, other nursing faculty involved in the project are Norah Airth-Kindree, clinical instructor of nursing; Diane Marcyjanik, clinical instructor of nursing; and Karen Maddox, associate professor of nursing. Other participants in the planning, development and implementation of the project include Pam Cernocky, coordinator of Gifted and Talented Education for the Eau Claire Area School District; and Gerry Lee and Beth Gray resource teachers from the Eau Claire Area School District gifted and talented education department.

"Working on the project has been a community effort," Kirkhorn said. "Developing a project of this magnitude could not have been possible without the active involvement of UW-Eau Claire nursing administrators and faculty, middle school faculty, nursing students, middle school teachers and students, receptive elementary schools, and the Gifted and Talented Resource Teachers of the Eau Claire Area School District. The project has been in the planning stages since 2007. It's very exciting to be part of its implementation."



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