For a few Wednesdays each fall, resident nurses at Auburn University’s School of Nursing head up to Stephens Elementary School to teach health and the human body.

The program, called “Tiger Chat,” is mutually beneficial — third- and fourth-grade P.E. students learn healthy life habits and resident nurses learn about pediatrics, childhood development stages and community outreach.

Wednesday was the last day of the 2020 program, in which students learned about the heart.

“We have different options for the activities because each kid responds a little differently to activities,” Auburn School of Nursing community liaison Kelly Strickland said. “We challenge out students — ‘Work with your group. Do what you think is best with your group. Read the room essentially.’”

Tiger Chat works with Stephens physical education teachers John Russell and Shundell Russaw during their 30-minute classes.

“Some of the different kids come in here with different challenges,” Russaw said. “The nurses think outside of the box and they take them to the side and they work with them.”

Alexander City was the first community to trial Tiger Chat. Initially taught to older students at Radney Elementary, Auburn decided it would be better suited for younger students. Russell Medical sponsors the program.

Strickland’s mentor and colleague Dr. Linda Gibson-Young is the mastermind behind the initiative.  

“She’s very passionate about outreach and working with kids and so am I,” Strickland said.

For the Auburn nursing students, Tiger Chat is also a chance to change up their class routine.  

“We love being able to come here,” resident nurse Alex Dean said. “Usually our clinical setting is the hospital but this switches everything up — we get to come here and hang out with kids and be around this type of community.”

Strickland said Tiger Chat is about addressing health on “the front end.”

“Health actually happens in the community,” she said. “What we want to do with these opportunities with kids is to help them understand how their body works and hopefully prevent them from ever having to go to the hospital because they’re taking good care of their body.”

Russaw agrees health education should be proactive.  

“The kids are so excited about it,” Russaw said. “They look forward to getting into groups and meeting new teachers. It’s just exciting — they’re learning about their bodies at an early age and hopefully it pays dividends in the long run.”