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Health Check Kids: School lesson brings students closer to community

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A school lesson at Rocky Hill School in East Greenwich involved medical research with a personal touch.

It is a midterm project for mostly ninth-graders.

Students were tasked with interviewing someone who has or is battling cancer, or someone whose loved one has died from cancer. Then, they research the disease, bringing together science and English.

"In order to make sure the kids had the opportunity to fit in a real interview with their project, we had to reach out to the community,” said Pam Matson, who is chair of the science department at Rocky Hill.

Sally House, a 10-year breast cancer survivor, agreed to be interviewed.

“These girls asked excellent questions,” House said of students.

Others shared similar sentiments.

"When the email came around that said, ‘Who wants to participate”? I said, ‘Absolutely,’” said Kristina Stark, a breast cancer survivor who is director of marketing and design at the school.

Stark’s story displayed on a life-size cutout. It featured her personal story on one side, and her cancer journey on the other.

"They asked a ton of questions and they really got to the bottom of what I went through,” said Stark.

Students said they enjoyed the experience.

"We learned a lot about the treatment and stuff that's involved in getting back from breast cancer,” said Keanu Palavra, who was paired up with fellow student, Molly Pierson.

"Because they have this personal piece, plus biology piece, it really kind of brought a real-world aspect to them,” said Brianna Runshe, who is an introductory biology teacher.

Jessica Russell, a ninth-grade English teacher, said the school’s counselor, Tracy Fairchild, was on hand to talk with students about techniques for grief sensitivity in case someone they were talking to was having difficulty sharing their emotional stories.

"To be able to attach a person to it is to be able to understand it a lot more," said Thomas Fitzgerald, another student.

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