by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — For some students, there's nothing like learning hands-on. In Eric Tucker's 6th-grade health classes at Edward Town Middle School, hands-on this week meant help from a couple of the area's finest.
Fire Capt. Joseph Foucha and Firefighter Philip Smith have been spending mornings at the school all week, teaching students the bare essentials of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, otherwise known as CPR.
"It's about giving the students the knowledge to hopefully have the courage to help," Tucker said. "Hopefully, in an emergency, one of them can take the lead instead of just standing around and watching."
According to the instructors, CPR has evolved over the last few years. Expectations and skills required to perform the life-saving task were lowered, making it easier for kids to gain a decent understanding of the requirements certified practitioners understand.
Once they acquire the basic skills, they'll be able to translate them into taking a certification course themselves, a reality some students encounter, especially trying to find work as a babysitter.
It's a possible future for both Larissa Reid and Reilly Krupa, both of whom have younger siblings at home.
"If you want to become a babysitter, you have to have a little knowledge of CPR," Krupa said. "I have a little sister at home and my mom and dad don't get out much."
As for what the students are learning, the No. 1 take away was the physical activity involved in saving a life.
Reid said she noticed the amount of pressure it took to compress the chest of the class's dummies, which were used for hands-on instruction. She said she was shocked by the force needed to actually have an effect.
"I was shocked by how hard you have to press down on the chest," she said. "It may look violent, but that's how hard you have to press."
With such a limited amount of time with the children, both Foucha – whose 6th-grade son was in a Wednesday session – and Smith were impressed mostly by the knowledge the students were retaining. A typical class for CPR instruction lasts four times longer than they had with the children.
Still, they walked out the door at the end of the period with considerable understanding. Foucha said it gave him a sense of fulfillment.
"To me, it was worth it listening to them answer questions," he said. "Watching and listening to the children share the information means they're grasping it. So, just because they're kids, doesn't mean they won't be able to do this. Hopefully they'll have the courage to get in there and do something important in the right situation.
"If you can just learn compressions, you can save a life."