Nearly 140 Bulls join Great American Teach-In

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What is public health?

A greater number of school kids can answer that question, thanks to the participation of the USF College of Public Health (COPH) faculty, students and staff in the Great American Teach-In.

The Great-American Teach-In—typically held in November—is a national, annual event in which parents, business leaders, community officials and others are invited into schools to discuss their careers, education and hobbies.

Dr. Marie Bourgeois, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and a COPH alumna, decided to help coordinate the COPH’s student involvement in the Teach-In after her own positive experience participating in the event at her daughter’s school. All told, 136 COPH students, some of them volunteering through the USF Health Service Corps, took part in this year’s Teach-In.

Dr. Marie Bourgeois with her daughter during the Great American Teach-In. (Photo courtesy of Bourgeois)

“I thought it was really important not only for the kids to learn about their health and public health, but also for them to be exposed to different professions other than just the banker who goes in and hands out a bunch of pens,” said Bourgeois.

Natalie Preston, director of the COPH’s Office of Engagement and Constituent Relations, agrees.

“I volunteer at my son’s school every chance I get, and the Teach-In is no exception! This year I spoke to three first-grade and two third-grade classes. I talked about my job as a communicator and all the different ways to tell a story. Then, we watched a video that introduced public health followed by a hands-on activity,” said Preston. “The Teach-In is a free pass into classrooms to talk about your hobby or profession. If ‘Our practice is our passion,’ then participating in the Teach-In is a no-brainer!”

After learning about public health, elementary students wrote down one thing they will commit to doing that will advance the public’s health. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

After seeing the impact of the Teach-In firsthand, Bourgeois thought the event would be a great way to get students involved with the community they would be serving after graduation.

“It really benefits both the kids in the schools and our [COPH] students,” said Bourgeois. “The kids learn from and are more receptive to students, and it also gives the students a great experience that they can put on their CV.”

The Great American Teach-In allows collaboration between USF COPH and Hillsborough County Public Schools. Here, third graders hold bags of (fake!) vomit as part of a public health lesson taught by Natalie Preston. (Photo by Preston)

First-year MPH candidate Danny Polanco participated this year and agrees with Bourgeois and Preston on what an enriching experience it is.

“Teaching at Freedom High School was an enjoyable experience as myself and a couple other MPH students got to share our knowledge of public health,” said Polanco. “We shared how epidemiologists use the chain of infection to prevent disease and answered some questions regarding other public health topics, such as vaccinations, nurses’ role in public health and even how basketball relates to public health [by promoting physical activity, reducing the risk of obesity and forging social relationships].”

Elementary students created an “outbreak” by shaking hands with classmates and spreading glitter germs. (Photo by Preston)

The Teach-In will continue throughout the next several weeks, allowing USF students and staff to impact the community around them.

“It’s a great way to enhance a school’s curriculum and help underserved students in the community,” Bourgeois said.

The following videos were used to help introduce students to the world of public health:
USF COPH: Great American Teach In-elementary
USF COPH: Great American Teach In — Middle/High School

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health

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