Harvard-Kent Elementary School students visit MGH Institute’s physical therapy program for a hands-on educational experience


Fourth graders from Harvard-Kent Elementary marveled at 3D magnetic models, life-size bones, and skeletons and even got to experience a ride in the lift—a device used to lift patients in and out of wheelchairs and other aid devices—as they witnessed physical therapy in action at the MGH Institute this past week. 

“They are an energetic bunch,” said Doctor of  Physical Therapy student Nathan Nguyen with a smile as he watched the young visitors in the IHP’s Sanders IMPACT Practice Center. “I’ve really enjoyed working with this age group at schools in the area, so it’s awesome to have them here in person.”

Izzy, one of the public-school students, was fascinated by a model of the scapula. Holding it up against her back, she noted. “It's like a puzzle piece.” 

As several other students surrounded the bone box, Assistant Professor Dr. Rania Karim lifted the femur and asked the students if they knew the bone's name. Student Nico shouted, “That’s the femur. I know someone who broke that bone once!” 

At another station, Instructor Dr. Rebecca Pham explained that the heart and lung models were magnetic and could be pulled apart. The students began to deconstruct each piece for a better look. Holding a lung in one hand and the heart in the other, student Yanni asked, “Wait, what happens if a body has a heart but no lungs?” Dr. Pham responded, “I’m not sure that’s possible.” 

PT Assistant Professor Dr. Jane Baldwin, who has organized the annual visit for several years, said it aims to educate children about their well-being, physical fitness, and the work of healthcare professionals in the physical therapy field. 

“The kids like to engage with our students because, on the surface, they are playing games,” said Baldwin, who noted she hopes the experience could inspire them to pursue a healthcare career down the road. “I don’t think they always realize they are learning because, to many of them, they are just having fun.” 

And it’s not just the youngsters who learned things. 

“It’s really been a learning opportunity for me as well,” said Nguyen. “I hope to go into pediatrics, so learning how to interact with this age group properly will be important.”

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