Youngsters at Roanoke’s West End Center for Youth are a lot smarter about their bodies after participating in Bodies & Bites, a joint outreach project of VTCSOM, Radford University Carilion, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

During the four-week program, which is repeated in the spring and fall, kids in 2nd to 5th grades learn about how their bodies work and how to keep them healthy through good nutrition and exercise. The program is led by medical students from VTCSOM and graduate students from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. Each week, kids from the West End Center are assigned groups where they learned about specific body systems, including the nervous system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and musculoskeletal system.

Students building models with craft items
Rau helps youngsters build neurons.
Helena Carvalho with students as they color pages with heart diagrams. Child in foreground is using stethoscope to listen to his own heart.
Helena Carvalho, Basic Science Education faculty member, leads a workshop on the heart.

The weekly programs are a combination of small group discussion and hands-on activities and crafts, and each session ends with making a healthy snack that relates to the particular system they learned about that day. For instance, one day recently they made guacamole for the nervous system, since avocados are high in good fats. 

This program was a previous curricular component of VTCSOM’s Interprofessionalism Domain (now HSSIP). The reintroduction of Bodies & Bites as a service learning opportunity was spearheaded by VTCSOM’s Nutrition in Medicine club and Assistant Professor Kristofer Rau.

Kris Rau attaches electrodes to the arm of a student
Rau works with one West End Center student attaching electrical leads onto surface electrodes to demonstrate electromyography.
Kris Rau shows a student a red tablet
What she sees on the read out is pretty cool!

The West End Center serves about 150 children each year who live in some of Roanoke’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The center strives to equip children with the developmental assets they need to become productive, responsible adults.

The Bodies and Bites program is funded through grants Rau received from the Dana Foundation and the Virginia Tech Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.