Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

By: Sara Thorpe

Editor’s Note: Over the next several weeks, Destination HealthEU will feature pieces from students from the Center for the Study of Human Health. This piece is an introduction to six student essays about their experiences participating in Health 1,2,3’s classroom to community 4th level social marketing component. This program, as described below, aligns real-world interactions with academic learning outcomes in order to enrich student learning with authentic engagement.

Health 1, 2, 3 is an empirically-driven academic health program housed in the Center for the Study of Human Health (CSHH) that aims to educate, engage, empower, and encourage students to develop and sustain healthy lifestyle behaviors starting their freshman year. Students who complete the series of three courses experience discovery and exploration of health while developing a unique array of personal and professional skills including, but not limited to, presenting information, facilitating discussions, and applying active learning techniques. In support of the CSHH mission to foster engaging, innovative scholarship that enables students to apply knowledge acquired in the classroom, the 4th level of the Health 1, 2, 3 program partnered with Graduation Generation (GradGen), a high school dropout prevention initiative housed in Emory’s Center for Civic and Community Engagement.

GradGen is responsible for creating placements for professors and centers, such as CSHH, who are interested in implementing community engaged and service-learning components with K-12 student populations as a part of their curriculum. Through this collaborative initiative, GradGen and Health 1, 2, 3 mobilized resources to meet the need for quality health education in local public schools. King Middle School stakeholders indicated persistent health-related misperceptions, indicating a lack of personal health knowledge, skills and health-enhancing practices among King Middle School students

The 4th Level of Health 1,2,3 Program extends Learning to the Atlanta Community at King Middle School Through a Collaborative Initiative of the Center for the Study of Human Health and Graduation Generation

Through this collaborative effort, the gap between academic learning and practical professional skills is achieved to support student learning. For post-collegiate success, students need to not only be able to recall information learned in the classroom but also understand how to apply it within a broader complex context. This model takes students who have completed the Health 1, 2, 3 program and/or foundational courses in Human Health directly into the community under the mentorship of the Health 1, 2, 3 faculty team and 4th level partners to broaden student knowledge and translate their positive leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making skills into real world applications.

Recognizing the unique skill set of students who complete the Health 1, 2, 3 program, program faculty sat down with GradGen and King Middle administrators to identify core topics for the Emory students address in the lessons. Ten participating Emory students designed and implemented health lessons that addressed positive mental health, stress, time and energy management, physical activity, and nutrition for 48 middle school students. The nutrition component was made possible from generous support of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Community Engaged Learning Grant. Lessons were developed in alignment with Georgia Health Standards and will be left at the school for continued use.

As a result of this experiences, students gained the opportunity to directly apply knowledge learned in the classroom in a practical application. Students felt that this experience solidified concepts they had learned within the classroom within a professional environment. They also felt this to be a real-world experience that will help them stand out in the future.

Image of what looks like a classroom of adolescent students of mixed races. They are looking at an adult man who is standing at the front of the room and appears to be the teacher.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Here are some perspectives from these 4th level student:

“I think having taken this course will be especially valuable if I end up finding a career in health education or health policy, because I will already have first-hand experience of how valuable health education is at an early age during the students’ most critical periods of development. Whether I go on to educate students or end up in an advocacy position for greater quality of health education in Atlanta or anywhere else in the U.S, I will be able to draw from my experiences with GradGen and provide compelling insight.”

“I will use my experience and be able to be a more vocal advocate of education improvements wherever I can. I will also try to pursue education roles in the future since this has been a great catalyst in my passion for education.”

“It made me more aware of how important health is in adolescent education and how much of an impact it can have by teaching it at schools.”

“It has definitely opened my eyes to values of health education in public schools, especially when partnered with an incredible drop-out prevention program such as Graduation Generation. It has also shown me how much we can learn from our youth, and that all children deserve the utmost quality of health education.”

The feedback from students documents the success of the collaborative efforts of the 4th level. The students’ reflections on the critical role that experiential learning plays in retaining theoretical concepts, accelerating learning, and putting academic knowledge into use solidifies the power of this model for undergraduate students. Over the course of the next week, we will feature six blog posts from students who write about their personal reflections on their time in the 4th level opportunities.

Next academic year, the Health 1, 2, 3 team and their partners aim to build upon this success by increasing student involvement in the 4th level component and revising content and processes in order to continue to meet both partner and student needs.

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