Medical camp offers children chance to discover human body

by Justin Costley

Sheep brain dissections, electrocardiograms and ultrasound procedures aren’t normal experiences for 9- to 11-year-old children.
However, at Kids U: World of Medicine and “U,” a camp coordinated by the University Medical School and Department of Recreational Sports, kids learn about the human body, its systems, and what it’s like to be a doctor or health professional.
This is the third year of the week-long camp, which uses speakers, diagrams, models and medical equipment to teach kids.
The $185 camp, which has morning and afternoon sessions for two different age groups of kids, allowed the children, many of whom express interest in health-related futures, to see for themselves the jobs and responsibilities of health professionals.
Before coming to the camp, 10-year-old Harry Kelm wanted to be a surgeon. An opportunity to see his heart through an ultrasound machine did nothing but strengthen his resolve.
“It was fun when I saw my heart on the machine, and I liked the dissection of the brains yesterday,” Kelm said.
“We saw a video, and it had a surgeon, and it was taking a tumor out of somebody’s brain. I want to be a surgeon,” he said.
Fortunately for the kids, it wasn’t just all learning and education.
The medical lessons were split into two half-day sessions, taught by Jeff McLennan, an outreach teacher from the Science Museum of Minnesota, and doctors and technicians from the Medical School and Fairview-University Medical Center.
While one group of children learned about the body and practiced with stethoscopes and blood-pressure monitors, the other group waited for their turn by spending the half-day swimming and playing.
Each day the children learned about different systems and organs of the human body.
On Wednesday, lessons focused on how blood flows into and out of the heart and around the body, as well as the purpose of this system.
And despite technical words like arteries, veins, atriums, ventricals and heart valves, the children had no trouble learning a fundamentally sound description of the circulatory system.
McLennan said although the children seem to be grasping the material pretty well, they are also learning about a wide variety of health-related jobs and that swimming isn’t the only activity that is fun.
“They’re having a great time,” he said. “I think mainly, it is just to have fun in the summer, other than doing things like rock climbing and swimming, and to realize, it’s fun learning things too.”
For the Medical School, the camp is one of many opportunities to do some community outreach.
Along with paid camps, medical students and faculty participate in many programs designed to recruit future doctors and health professionals from minority groups in the community.
Cynthia Hanson, director of community relations for the Medical School, said these programs provide an opportunity for the interested people or children to experience a little of what the University’s Medical School is like.
“It provides kids with a chance to get inside the Medical School and really see what it’s like to be a doctor and kind of try on the hat for a little while,” Hanson said.

Justin Costley covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3238.