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Teacher Promotes Blood Donation Education

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Stephen Socolosky, who teaches sixth grade in East Hartford, Connecticut, recently was honored by the governor of Connecticut, John G. Rowland, for his commitment to blood donation. Socolosky has also helped create activities about blood -- including a Jeopardy-style game -- to accompany classroom units on the circulatory system. His students have written a skit about blood donation and organized a community blood drive! Included: Three blood-related lessons and activities for students.


Image As the husband, son, and brother of nurses, sixth-grade teacher Stephen Socolosky has long known the importance of donating blood. He wants to make sure his students get the message and pass it along.

Socolosky, who teaches at Sunset Ridge School in East Hartford, Connecticut, worked with the American Red Cross Blood Services, Connecticut Region to develop curriculum about blood and the circulatory system. The curriculum is aimed at students in fifth through seventh grades; about 28 schools now use the program.

The American Red Cross has given Education World permission to reprint three activities from the curriculum [see sidebar]. Additional activities that are not part of the curriculum can be found at the Kids Page.


LOOKING FOR LESSONS

About three years ago, Socolosky called the local Red Cross for information about the circulatory system, says Carol O'Hala, education coordinator for Connecticut Region Blood Services. Red Cross staff suggested he bring his students in for a tour, which prompted Socolosky and O'Hala to develop activities students could do during their visit to the Red Cross facility.

Now students taking the tour can see how blood is broken down into different components and stored after it is donated. They watch a Bill Nye, the Science Guy video about the circulatory system, learn about different blood types, and conduct a demonstration about the importance of making sure a person who needs a transfusion receives the right blood type.

Students also play a Jeopardy-type game in which they match each blood component with its characteristics and answer questions in five categories: General Information, Blood Donations, Circulatory System, Components of Blood, and Blood Types. "After the tour, [students] realize donating blood could save someone's life," Socolosky says.


A LIVING LESSON

Socolosky, 40, has been a blood donor for half his life. He began donating blood when he worked second shift in a machine shop about 20 years ago. Socolosky read in the newspaper about a local blood drive and decided to participate. He has been hooked ever since.

Now he encourages his students to donate blood when they reach the required age of 17. He has set his own high standard; Socolosky recently received the 2000 (Connecticut) governor's Award for donating 13 gallons -- which equals 104 pints or 52 quarts -- of blood over a 20-year-period. Considering that a person who weighs 160 pounds contains about five quarts of blood, Socolosky's donations could fill about 12 people with blood.

As part of his lesson on the circulatory system, Socolosky donates blood in front of his class to alleviate students' fears that giving blood is painful or scary. His hands-on lesson reflects his approach to teaching, O'Hala says. "He thinks of his students not just in the classroom but in life. He looks at all aspects of their education. He's trying to help build the future donor base."

Dr. Pauline Fusco, principal of Sunset Ridge School, says Socolosky's efforts help expand students' perspectives. "I've heard some students say, 'When I turn 17, I'm going to give blood,' " Fusco tells Education World. "It ties in well with the science curriculum, and they love the trip to the Red Cross."


RECRUITING DONORS

Although Socolosky's students are not eligible to be blood donors yet, the students certainly can recruit them. In January, the school held a blood drive that involved almost all 575 students. Before the event, youngsters distributed flyers and presented a skit at the elementary schools about donating blood. The day of the drive, they baby-sat, passed out refreshments, and checked in donors. The blood drive, dedicated to the memory of a local police officer killed in the line of duty, yielded more than 100 pints, Socolosky reports.

Blood drives mesh well with the school's aims, Fusco comments. "Among our goals is that students become leaders and reach out to the community," she says. "They hosted, planned, and organized the blood drive and felt very proud of themselves."

At the elementary school where Socolosky used to teach, he organized blood drives in memory of a student who had died of leukemia. "I've just tried to educate everyone about blood drives," he adds.