New Haven schools partner for heart health education

Creed High School sophomores Ssanyu Rogers and Jamar Crawford show Celentano third-graders a diagram of the human digestive system.

Creed High School sophomores Ssanyu Rogers and Jamar Crawford show Celentano third-graders a diagram of the human digestive system.

NEW HAVEN — There’s a lot about the digestive system that Celentano third graders Rachael Osei-Bonsu and Javaeh Denby said they didn’t know.

This conversation took place as Creed High School sophomores Ssanyu Rogers and Jamar Crawford were in their classroom recently and reading a book on how the digestive system works as part of a partnership between the schools, part of a larger program through which Creed students become Celentano teachers for a day.

“Your belly stretches so food can fit in,” Rachael said she learned.

“I learned there’s a long pipe to your stomach, and it’s big,” Javaeh said, referencing her first classroom exposure to the idea of an esophagus.

Ssanyu cleared up another misconception for one of Rachael and Javaeh’s classmates: the small intestine might be called small because it’s narrow, but it’s actually quite long.

Robin Miller Godwin, past president of the New Haven alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, said there are also some gaps in knowledge about health among adults who learned about esophaguses long ago.

“Among black women, heart disease is the silent killer for us because the symptoms are different,” she said, for example.

For four years, the sorority has helped coordinate the partnership between Creed and Celentano as part of its participation in the American Heart Association’s Go Red! campaign.

“This gives us an opportunity to touch the lives of boys and girls who we don’t deal with usually,” Miller Godwin said. She said the campaign can be especially effective if students share the information they learned about heart health with their parents.

Celentano Principal Keisha Hannans, who is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, said the initiative ties into the schools’ STEM curricular magnet themes.

“At both schools, we believe this is a great hands-on activity for our students, and the Creed students do an awesome job of teaching and connecting with our students,” she said.

Creed Principal Laura Roblee said having students teach the younger students about health reinforces their learning and that of the magnet theme, which is sports medicine.

“It gives them that hands-on piece,” she said. “Part of our mission is to keep kids safe and healthy and to educate them so they can help each other to take care of ourselves.”

Over the course of the day, students in different grades learned about the circulatory system, the detrimental health effects of smoking and productive and active ways to relieve stress.

Creed psychology teacher Robert Rhone and his team of students led pre-K students through sorting colored beanbags labeled with different foods into vegetables, proteins, dairy and grains.

When the pre-K children were done sorting foods, they were led through a workout of jumping up and down and playing. Beside them in the gymnasium, older students ran through an obstacle course.

“It’s good for them because they’re sorting colors and categories of food,” Rhone said. “The objective of the whole event is getting kids thinking about heart health.”