On the first Tuesday of July, the campus of Shalom Primary School was littered with children writhing in feigned agony. Shouts of ‘Help! I’m on fire!’ and ‘Call the doctor now!’ rang across the school as the Grade Five students wrapped toilet-paper bandages around each other in panic.
Hanna and I were the designated leaders of the science lessons during our week at Shalom, and we deliberated for a long time when selecting a topic that was both stimulating for the students and relevant to their national syllabus.
We finally decided upon a lesson plan that was interactive and participation-based whilst also yielding practical benefits for students and teachers alike. The theme of the lesson was ‘First Aid and Emergency Response,’ and each group within the class was designated with the task of learning, photographing, and performing a common first-aid procedure before the class.
These procedures ranged from treating strains and cuts to CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver. It was apparent that the students had never been exposed to concepts such as washing out wounds and using ice to reduce swelling after an injury. Thus, in an environment where resources were limited and student access to first-aid was an exceptional privilege, it was important for the Grade Five students of Shalom to gain an practical and applicable experience within the classroom.
Participation was the major emphasis of this lesson. I was in charge of the ‘choking’ group; which was a much simpler term for the children to remember than the Heimlich Maneuver. After a short introduction, I led the students outside and had them pair up with a partner. Using instruction cards that Hanna and myself had prepared the previous night, I performed each step upon a student while ensuring that they were holding, striking, and positioning their partners correctly. It was rewarding to see that the students were increasingly comfortable with interacting with one another’s bodies, and this was an important barrier to break if we were to successfully fulfill the aim of our lesson.
After each partner had practiced many repetitions of the Maneuver, we chose two students to perform the Maneuver before their peers while the rest of the group contributed by performing a mini-scene that was set in a restaurant. The boy leading the class presentation, Baraka, elicited many laughs as he stood behind his classmate and clasped his hands around his navel. Impressively, the he was not fazed, and completed the segment after ensuring that he explained the importance of each step in a loudly projected voice.
With the photos that we took during the group session, the Duke students assembled a poster entitled ‘First Aid and Emergency Procedures.’ With the combination of humourous photos, lively illustrations, and simplified steps for each method, we hope that this poster will serve as a valuable resource for Shalom School.
The most rewarding moment of this experience was the day that we returned to Shalom to exhibit the posters that the students had created in class. The lunch bell rang as herds of excited students stampeded out of class and flocked around the first aid poster. I could see that they had surrounded the wall in a tight semi-circle formation, and I craned my neck in curiosity for what lay between the sea of bodies and the wall.
There, I saw the stout figure Baraka as he pointed at the poster and belted out in a booming, authoritative, voice: ‘First, you check the mouth for obstructions…’