As a growing number of Americans suffer from chronic illness and the need for workers in the health care field continues to increase, UConn Waterbury has launched an innovative program that gives local middle schoolers a hands-on experience with science and health education.
Combining the city’s initiatives to expand the local health care workforce with the Waterbury campus’ focus on community outreach and engagement, the Allied Health Science (AHS) Major’s Hands-on Health project is a collaboration among UConn Waterbury students, Allied Health Sciences faculty, Waterbury public school students, and WPS district administration and faculty.
Led by Tamara Kaliszewski, APIR and AHS Waterbury faculty lead, undergraduate students enrolled in a health education independent study host weekly STEM field trips on campus for Waterbury seventh graders.
Groups of 30-50 middle schoolers and their teachers spend a half-day rotating through stations of hands-on cardiovascular system activities, designed and presented by the undergraduates. Goals of the program include stimulating interest in health and health care careers, augmenting the 7th grade science curriculum of organ system study with materials and activities not available in the classroom, introducing area students to UConn Waterbury, and providing UConn undergraduates with an experiential learning opportunity in health education and promotion.
This spring, nine student groups from seven Waterbury middle schools are scheduled to visit, and 14 undergraduates are taking part in the health education independent study. Expansion of the project’s scope in academic year 2024-2025 is also planned, with an estimated 17 groups visiting campus and 750-800 7th grade students expected to be served.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to give back to the Waterbury community and hopefully empower and educate the future generation,” says Hida Ahamed ’25 (CAHNR). “Being part of this project has helped boost my confidence as a student, leader, and future physician. The kids are just a blast to work with, and I can never forget the look of amazement that shines in their eyes when they learn something new and exciting. To me, that’s what really makes our work worthwhile.”
Funding from the following grants has made this pilot phase of the project possible: Connecticut Community Foundation, Elizabeth Chase Foundation, UConn Waterbury Innovation Grant for Life-Transformative Education, and the CAHNR Teaching Enhancement Grant. Busing has been provided by Waterbury Public Schools, Verna Ruffin, Superintendent.