(NOVEMBER 19 - FEBRUARY 27) In November, Sheila Davies, a Nurse Practitioner at North Shore heartsUniversity Hospital LIJ and a parent of a first grader at the Riley Avenue School in Calverton, NY, volunteered to teach a unit on heart health to the first graders at Riley Avenue Elementary school through a program she created and called the “Heartist” (Heart + Artist) project. First students learned about heart health from Ms. Davies and then they created art to share with heart patients at the hospital. In February, the HEARTIST PROJECT concluded with a video presentation featuring the staff and and patients in the cardio wing of the hospital where the students' art was hung.

“This was a fantastic parent-initiated program,” exclaimed Riley Avenue Principal David Enos. “The program works on so many levels, and it is a great example of character education and community service of the highest order. We’re very thankful to Ms. Davies and the North Shore University Hospital.”

Ms. Davies and a colleague, Diana Smith (a registered nurse at North Shore University Hospital), shared information with the children about what they need to do to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. They discussed elements of  a healthy diet, exercise, and behaviors like smoking that can interfere with heart health.

The first graders worked in small groups to learn about how the heart pumps—making the sound of a pumping heart as Ms. Davies pumped a sponge heart. The students busily put together plastic models of the heart. They paired up to use a stethoscope to listen to each other’s hearts.

First grade teacher Jill Kent asked the students to summarize what they had learned after Ms. Davies’ presentation.

“I learned that you should exercise every day and eat heart healthy foods,” said Genivieve.

“I liked listening to my partner’s heart,” Frankie added. “It beat so fast.”

Andrew shared, “I learned that smoking makes your veins smaller and then it’s harder for your heart to pump the blood through your veins. Don’t smoke!”

artistsAfter Thanksgiving, working with Riley’s art teacher, Melissa Haupt, these first graders began making art projects that were displayed at the North Shore University Hospital.  The art that the students created was professionally framed and hung throughout the Cardiothoracic unit.

“We developed a video to present to these little ‘Heartists’,” said Ms. Davies when she returned in February to share the final product with the students. “We want you to know that your art made a difference in the lives and recovery of our patients," she said as she shared a clip of one of the patients viewing one of the pieces of framed art.

The Cardiothoracic Department also gave each ‘Heartist’ a special gift to thank them for their efforts, and Riley Avenue art teacher Melissa Haupt and some of her students gave Ms. Davies a HEARTFELT THANK YOU by presenting her with a bouquet of flowers and several thank you cards made by the students.