Janai Carnegie, 10, had the chance to not only learn about the function of a lung – she got to be one.
Donning a vest with Velcro stickers with the chemical formulas for oxygen and carbon dioxide, Janai recently joined several of her Florida College Academy classmates in acting out how blood travels through the body using a floor-sized heart.
"It was really cool," she said. "I learned how the heart is beating."
Hands-on learning is just one of the activities Academy students engaged in as part of the celebration of More Health's "Are You Heart Smart?" Day at Tampa General Hospital on Feb. 7.
The event marked the 25th anniversary of the founding partnership between the hospital and More Health, a nonprofit organization that provides health education lessons to school districts in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties.
The milestone is part of a larger observance of the Junior League of Tampa's 90th anniversary, said president Nicole Hubbard.
"It's not that it's just around – it's thriving," she said. "That's what makes it so special for us."
Tampa General is "excited" to continue its relationship with More Health, said Ellen Fiss, a hospital spokeswoman.
"It's probably one of the best programs … in terms of enrichment of students," she said. "They do an outstanding job."
What began in 1989 as a Junior League of Tampa community service project with just two lessons about heart health has blossomed into a 25-lesson program on a range of issues such as gun safety, teen pregnancy, and personal hygiene that has reached more than three million students, said Nancy Crane, More Health's founder.
"That's the vision I didn't have," she said. "I had a vision that we would have healthier children teaching them one class at a time."
Every day, a dozen of the nonprofit's instructors visit classrooms to teach K-12 students how to make healthy eating choices, bike safety, or basic first aid skills.
It's estimated that 11,000 presentations were taught to 234,000 students last year, said Karen Buckenheimer, More Health's executive director.
That knowledge doesn't just stay in the classroom.
"We encourage them to go home and share all of that information with their families," she said.
The lessons are helpful for teachers, too, because each meets 20 to 30 of the state's education standards, she said.
The lessons are popular with students, too.
For Ethan Murphy, 9, learning about the circulatory system and watching his classmates role-play was fun.
But there was one thing that topped it: listening to his own heartbeat.
"That was my favorite part," he said.
Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]