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Health Fair Gives
Shot in the Arm to
Parent Involvement


"What surprised me the most was the number of students who brought their family members -- old and young -- to the event and their excitement in receiving 'giveaways,'" recalls Kim Curry. "Many visitors came out because they wanted to have a chance to win a Wii and Dance Dance Revolution game. For each vendor they visited, they received a ticket that went into a drawing. One of our eighth-grade students was the winner, and when the winning ticket number was announced, she squealed with excitement!"

Health care providers and other
groups operate booths at the fair and counsel
strolling students and their families.
(Photos provided by Kim Curry)

During the health and wellness fair at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School, Assistant Principal Curry was shocked to see even those students she wouldn't have expected to pay great attention to their health lining up to have their blood pressure checked. She was pleased to observe the students from Ronceverte, West Virginia, conversing one-on-one with vendors and health care providers.

The fair was created to bring the health and physical education departments into a community involvement activity. At the time, the Dance Dance Revolution game had just been introduced in phys ed classes. It was so popular that the fair's organizers chose to include it as well as a 3-point-shot contest on the basketball court. Winners received T-shirts.

"Our school nurse was able to generate a list of providers in the area who would come in and set up booths and give information to our families," Curry reported. "Everyone is concerned with health and wellness today. West Virginia has a high rate of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Our district has tried to develop nutritious school lunches and to reduce sugar, salt, and fat while also providing meals that are delicious."

During the last school year, the weather did not cooperate for the winter event, and it was eventually held in March in conjunction with the math department's Pi Night. Although Curry and her staff feared that this timing would take away from the activity, the two events together drew a strong turnout. Pairing the fair with another special event is now a regular practice, as is holding a drawing for a desirable prize at the end of the night. Of course, participants must be present to win.

The school nurse plays a pivotal role in the event's success. She knows local health providers and personally phones many vendors to invite them to operate booths during the fair. Notices are placed in the newspaper, published on the school Web site and in flyers, and announced through the automated calling system and email lists. In the past, upon learning about the fair, some vendors have contacted Curry to ask if they may take part. Curry follows up with notes of appreciation after the event.

Even students line up for free blood
pressure checks at the health and
wellness fair.

"I believe the free glucose checks, blood pressure checks, and flu shots have encouraged some folks to come," she told Education World. "The nurse makes sure to involve many different providers and tries not to duplicate [types of] providers. If there are similar providers, she sees that they hit upon different aspects of health."

Healthy snacks are another draw for the booths. At the fair, the director of food services for the district has supplied these snacks, talked about healthy eating, and displayed a model of the food pyramid. The event is a rare opportunity for her to interact with the students for whom she develops menus everyday. At the completion of one fair, Curry asked a student which vendor she liked best and received an unforeseen answer.

"She said she liked the one from the Alliance for Mental Illness because she recently lost a friend to suicide," shared Curry. "I also remember seeing so many parents in the gym enjoying the evening. We had many positive comments. It was a feel good moment. There were also students and family members there we don't normally see at school events and family members who had never been in the school."

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