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Sixth Graders
Are Trained Lifesavers


Medical crises -- heart attacks, choking -- rarely occur in emergency rooms, so response time in the field is critical. One community has increased its residents’ chances of surviving these episodes by training its sixth-graders in life-saving skills. Included: A description of the training for sixth graders.

People in Boxborough, Massachusetts, have another option in a medical emergency besides calling 911 or flagging down a firefighter or police officer -- they can look for a sixth grader.

Firefighter Jason Malinowski and his
colleagues from the Boxborough
Fire Department demonstrate the Heimlich
Maneuver to sixth graders at
the Blanchard Memorial School in Boxborough.

In a unique collaboration between the Boxborough Fire Department and the town’s only school, Blanchard Memorial School, firefighters trained 76 sixth graders to use defibrillators and to administer the life-saving techniques of cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich Maneuver. The school has a defibrillator outside its gymnasium, which gets a lot of community use

While teachers and firefighters hope that an 11-or-12-year-old never will find himself or herself on the spot in a medical emergency, there is no denying that the students’ new skills could save a life.

“One of the important things to remember is that anything is better than nothing,” said fire lieutenant Jason Malinowski, the department’s public education officer, who conducted the training. “If they can do CPR for two-to-three minutes [on a person in distress], that could keep someone going until trained personnel arrive.”


At the program’s start, Malinowski was concerned that students would be overwhelmed by the seriousness of the training and the responsibility it could bring. Some students were a little intimidated at first, according to Dr. Curtis Bates, district superintendent and Blanchard principal.

“Initially, it was scary for some of them,” Bates said. “But now they understand the responsibility of it. They wrote about it in their science journals, and some wondered if they would be able to do this if they really had to. By the end, most were sure they were capable of using the techniques.”

The students, in fact, exceeded Malinowski’s expectations. “Now they feel empowered that they can do something they never thought they would be able to do,” Malinowski told Education World. “I was surprised at how inquisitive they were, and how much they volunteered and asked questions.” Students completed the training in December 2010, and teachers and fire department personnel are following up with them in health and science classes this year to help them keep their skills up.

The five hours of training was funded by an educational grant that the fire department received, and had the dual benefits of enhancing the sixth-grade science curriculum and giving students a chance to collaborate with the fire department on a community project, Bates said. Blanchard sixth graders study the human circulatory and respiratory systems.

“The kids were able to take what they were learning in class, like what could happen if you have a heart attack,” science teacher Jason Dimen said. “By knowing the content of body systems and knowing how organs work, they could understand why CPR works; because the heart is a pump. We’d also been discussing healthy living and the benefits of good nutrition and exercise. Now they feel empowered to save a life if they had to.”

Dimen also was able to tell his classes that a former Blanchard student who now attends high school was able to save his grandfather’s life because he knew how to do the Heimlich Maneuver.


Students who completed the course received certification cards, Bates said. Prior to the training, some had never heard of CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver.

“During lunch one day I asked them what they learned,” Bates continued. “They were very thrilled about the whole process and very energetic. And we got great responses from parents who said that they were grateful their kids had this opportunity.”

“If they can do CPR for two-to-three minutes [on a person in distress], that could keep someone going until trained personnel arrive.”

Malinowski said he was so impressed with the students’ performance that he thought he might even be able to teach the course to fifth graders next year. Bates wants to extend the training to the entire staff and build it into next year’s professional development calendar, now that the sixth graders have blazed a trail.

“They’ve taken this training and realized it’s not something just to use in school,” Bates told Education World. “They are great ambassadors for the school in the community; it gave them a sense of responsibility to know they can be counted on wherever they are to use it.”



Physical Education and Health Subject Center
Science Subject Center

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2011 Education World

Originally published 02/14/2011