We’ll take you on a tour of the Halle Heart Children’s Museum in Tempe, a place where kids can learn about heart health in fun ways.
Ted Simons: One in every eight kids in Maricopa County is obese. Poor diet, lack of exercise, just a few of the reasons. Now a museum devoted to heart health and kids is opening its door to the public. Shana Fischer and photographer take us to the Halle Heart Children's Museum.
Shana Fischer: From the heartbeat of a giraffe, to the scanner at the supermarket, the Halle Heart Children's Museum is serving up valuable lessons.
Len Gutman: The museum has eight major exhibits. They're all themed a little differently.
Shana Fischer: The exhibits are all interactive, Len Gutman of the American Heart Association says is key to getting a young audience's attention.
Len Gutman: It's really a world-class facility in terms of children's museums, and the interactivity part really gets the kids engaged. They're moving around a lot, interacting with the exhibits, pushing buttons, reading things off the walls, jumping up and down, that makes a big difference.
Shana Fischer: Rather than just tell kids about the dangers of smoking, the museum uses a game of mini golf. Golf ball represents a blood cell. The tunnel mimics the arteries of a non-smoker and smoker. The kids learn smoking constricts arteries. They understand it is easier hitting the ball through when the artery is wide open. For these kids, it is the first time they're learning about their hearts and how they work and how to keep them working. But for 15-year-old Emery Miller, being heart smart is a way of life.
Emery Miller: When I was little, I was faced with a lot of challenges with my heart. I was born with a hole in my heart and severe valve issues. I have had numerous surgeries.
Shana Fischer: He visits the museum frequently and shares his story with the guests.
Emery Miller: When I'm able to come here and see the kids having a great time, enjoying themselves, it is almost like I'm getting a card that says thank you for everything that you have done.
Shana Fischer: The museum was created in 2011 by a group of community leaders, including Discount Tire owners Diane and Bruce Halle. Bruce's mother suffered from heart disease. Seeing how decisions can lead down the path to heart disease, best illustrated with a trip to the museum's supermarket. Kids are challenged to select heart-healthy foods to buy. The kids scan the items to learn about nutritional content. Gutman says it is eye-opening.
Len Gutman: I sort of preach healthy eating in and outside of my job, frankly. For me that is the fun part watching the kids have the ah-ha moments when they scan the fried taquitos and realize that that is their entire fat content for the entire day in one serving and that understanding makes a huge difference. We hear all of the time about kids going home and making parents throw things out of their fridge.
Shana Fischer: If Gutman sounds passionate about his work here, he has a very good reason.
Len Gutman: I'm really lucky. Three years ago, I suffered a heart attack at 45 years old. Certainly never thought that was going to happen to me. And it sort of inspired me to make a big difference in my life, not just in my own health, but in making a career change and coming to work for the American Heart Association. And so I did that last year, and it has been really rewarding for me.
Shana Fischer: And it is rewarding for the kids as well, as these are lessons that will last a lifetime.
Ted Simons: For more information, check out the museum's web site at halleheartchildrensmuseum.org