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School children visit Elon for "Bones and Backpacks" lesson

Fifth grade students from nearby Sylvan Elementary School get a lesson from DPT students, and offer thanks to LabCorp executives for research funding.

Assistant Professor Paula DiBiasio works with a fifth grade student from Sylvan Elementary School.


Fifth graders from a local school visited Elon University on May 2 to tour campus, learn proper ways to wear backpacks, and thank leaders from LabCorp for funding the research of a physical therapy professor whose work is making a difference at their school.

Sylvan Elementary School students spent part of the morning on May 2 in the Gerald L. Francis Center on Haggard Avenue watching as graduate students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program offered lessons on bone structure and the need to carefully balance items they place in their book bags as a way to prevent injury.

Led by second-year DPT students Jen Evans and Stephanie Romich, the Sylvan students had the opportunity to work with plastic replica human skeletons and ask questions about the effects of inappropriate book bag loading on their backs and shoulders.

Second-year DPT candidate Jen Evans answers questions from students on May 2 during their visit to campus.

"It's been impressive to see how much the kids already know," Evans said of the fifth grade students. She also noted how the lessons make an impression on teachers. "Hopefully, they take something away from this, too, and can reinforce it throughout the school year."

After the “Bones and Backpacks” demonstration, which has been conducted by Associate Professor Janet Cope and DPT candidates at schools elsewhere in the county, the elementary students welcomed LabCorp executives Ann Raycroft and Teresa Mansfield with a banner thanking the company for funding research led by Assistant Professor Paula DiBiasio.

Fifth grade teachers are using "WalkKits" purchased by LabCorp grants in their schools and DiBiasio is measuring the effects of pairing physical activity and learning on children's academic performance and health. DiBiasio is also supported for her project with The Walking Classroom Institute by a grant from Elon's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

Laura Fenn of The Walking Classroom Institute was also on hand for the program.

The Sylvan Elementary School fifth graders also thanked executives from LabCorp for supporting a program that is taking place in their school building.

"Our preliminary findings show that children, teachers and parents are very enthusiastic about this program," DiBiasio said. "Students are more physically active and demonstrating terrific academic growth. This community collaboration will hopefully continue to have a very positive impact on our children's academic future and physical well-being."

Sylvan's principal, Gaye Sartin, is a graduate of Elon and worked with DiBiasio to brings the "Walking Classroom" project to her school in southern Alamance County.

"‘Thank you’ does not begin to cover our appreciation of the beautiful day we had with you all at Elon on Wednesday," Sartin said in an email to DiBiasio following the visit. "Your graciousness made our students and our teachers feel that you went way beyond what we expected to roll out the red carpet for Sylvan.

"This trip heightened our teachers’ understanding of what college awareness and access can be. It will impact their intentional leadership to guide and expect our students to set college attendance as a goal."

Eric Townsend,
5/8/2012 2:35 PM