The heart of the matter

The health museum in Halstead has a big heart ? in more ways than one. One way sits in the Exhibit Hall at the Kansas Learning Center for Health in all its larger-than-life glory. At one of the entrances is a roped-off model of giant heart, which came with a $35,000 price tag.
The model is about as tall as a man but much wider. Various parts of this organ are identified, including the left pulmonary artery, coronary sinus and right coronary veins. This heart is part of the hall?s permanent exhibit that features the body?s senses and other matters relating to the physical side of humans.
?It pretty much covers the body systems and nutrition and dental,? said Brenda Sooter, executive director.
These include circulatory, respiratory and immune systems, as well as eyesight and bones, Sooter said.
In addition to the heart, another large exhibit is of the human brain. Sooter said they wanted the brain and heart to be exhibit focal points because of their importance in the body.
Many of these displays are interactive. For example, at the brain display, visitors can push buttons that have functions of the body attached with them. When they push the button, for example, that?s attached to the word ?speech,? a person can see which part of the brain controls speech because a light will glow in that part of a large depiction of a brain that?s painted on a flat surface.
The displays for the senses, such as smell, touch and hearing, were donated by a museum that closed.
?(Health exhibits) were all remodeled last summer,? Sooter said.
The museum?s teaching staff painted and designed these displays. Curator Brad Wingert did the graphic design while Tricia Weber came up with the color scheme and did the layout, as well as made a search-and-find mural. Other instructors include Cindy Foster, Susan Lamb, Layla Nightingale and Ivory Beins.

Learning Center 2?Kids ? they love it,? Sooter said about the mural, which has a variety of images and textured items representing Kansas and the museum.
Another display, which seems to languish in people?s memories, is a model called Valeda, the talking woman, who is transparent so people can see her organs, arteries, veins and blood vessels. It?s as if her skin has turned transparent. Valeda is in the auditorium, and she comes with a couple of talking programs so people can learn more about the body.
?A lot of people remember Valeda,? Sooter said. ?Whenever the kids come, they always see Valeda.?
Valeda was purchased in 1965 from a company in Cologne, Germany. At the time, 20 were shipped to the United States, and now there?s only three left operating. The other two are in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Chicago.
?So that?s kinda neat that she?s been operating for almost 50 years,? Sooter said.
When people visit the auditorium, Valeda presents a 15-minutes program. Kids are told the veins and arteries in Valeda?s body, if stretched out, would go for 6 miles, but that our real bodies have veins and arteries that would stretch to 60,000 miles, which is 2.5 times around Earth, Sooter said.
Valeda talks about various parts of her body, and as she does, these parts, like the brain and stomach, light up. Valeda had a makeover five years ago, when she was given a new voice, and now museum staff can click on any of her organs. Another part of her makeover includes Valeda saying names of organs in Spanish.
?Now she?s more of a teaching tool for us too,? Sooter said.
When the organs are lit, they show up in 3D on a TV screen in the room.
?They love it ? not only children but adults,? Sooter said. ?(Adults) are like, ?Wow, I didn?t know my stomach was so high.? I love adults. They?re like little kids.?
Another way in which the museum has a big heart is the fact that staff educates a large number of people every year ? at the actual museum site and through outreach programs.
?We have a lot of giving people here,? Sooter said.
The center reaches about 25,000 people annually with some 8,000 visiting the Halstead location while the others are reached in schools through the outreach program. All but 1,000 of those are youth.
.?We also see homeschoolers here,? Sooter said. ?This year, we?ve seen a lot of home school groups here.?
This academic year, about 500 home-school students have come through.
Schools mostly focus on reading, writing and arithmetic, Sooter said, and the topic of health can get moved to the side.
?What we try to do is help schools meet state science standards by just providing a fun, hands-on enhanced program,? Sooter said.
The outreach programs are different for various grades. For example, second-graders are presented with ?Stand Tall ? Don?t Fall to Bullying,? while third-grade students listen to a program on the consequences of smoking.
Seventh- through 12-graders will learn about the consequences of drug use and the effects that lead to addiction and tolerance. Sooter said students are told about such things are fake marijuana and heroine, which are growing in popularity.
Volunteers prepare outreach program materials, as children get to take something home. Debbie Nightin?gale is volunteer coordinator.
Each program is revamped every year with current information, and programs are taught by instructors who are certified in some area to teach.
Field trip programs to the center include ?Heart to Start? for preschoolers, ?Dental Health? for kindergarten through the second grade and ?Circulatory System? for fourth- through seventh-graders.
?The Kansas Learning Center for Health offers 33 elementary and secondary programs both at the Center and as outreach to schools and community centers,? Sooter said. ?These programs are divided into three basic content areas and two educational levels: pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and seventh through 12th grade.
?The General Health curriculum covers all basic body systems; digestion, circulatory, respiratory, nervous and skeletal. These classes also include activities that teach healthy lifestyle decisions, such as good nutrition, dental health, safety and healthy habits.?
The Growth and Develop?ment courses include human growth and development, puberty education, bullying, dating, genetics and sexually transmitted infections. The various Drug Education courses include use and abuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs (legal and illegal).
?When people can actually see the visuals of what?s actually going on inside the body, they stop and think a little bit,? Sooter said.
Programs have been aligned to school curriculum state standards, Sooter said. By doing the outreach programs, they can travel throughout the state, reaching students who can?t visit the center

Beginnings
The center opened in 1965 and is at 505 Main St. in Halstead. The late Dr. Irene Koeneke, wife of the late Dr. Arthur E. Hertzler, wanted to leave a living legacy for her husband, who started Halstead Hospital in 1902, Sooter said. He also founded Hertzler Clinic in the early 1900s and was known as the ?horse-and-buggy doctor.?
The center will be 50 years old next year.
?It provides hands-on health and science education for children and adults,? a news release stated. ?The Kansas Learning Center for Health mission is to be a premier regional resource for quality health education.?
?It?s kind of impressive,? Sooter said. ?We?re the second oldest health museum in the nation ? right here in little ol? Halstead, Kansas.?
Funding
The Kansas Learning Center for Health exclusively is supported through private donations from organizations, individuals, corporations and foundations. The center receives no state funding, Sooter said. It operates on donations, admissions, bequests, building grants for additions and memorial gifts.
?So that?s how we make it,? Sooter said. ?When people give a gift, we want to use it very frugal,? as in very professionally but conservatively.
To get schools to send students to the center, Sooter writes grants and asks for sponsorships, saying she does the legwork for the schools, making it a win-win situation.
In addition, Cargill Inc. has a fund called Cargill Cares that?s supported by money from employees. They?ve sponsored nutrition-based programs in all 58 Wichita elementary schools for the past three years. Also, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation of Kansas supplied a grant for outreach programs in southeast Kansas for the 2013-14 academic year.
Some schools actually write the center?s programs into their curriculum. For example, the Human Growth and Development program is used by the Newton, Hutch?in?son, Halstead and Hesston schools.
In order to get more money, the center is having its first fundraising event Sept. 13 called The Kansas Learning Center for Health Presents a Kansas Country Evening. For more information about the evening, call the center at 800-798-2124. Entertainment, because they wanted to do something different, will be ventriloquist Greg Claassen from Whitewater.
?Because we know laughing is a lot of fun, and it?s good for your health,? Sooter said. ?The old saying that ?laughter is the best medicine? definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart and overall health.?

New annex
The grand opening of the Bailey Annex, named after Dr. Colin Bailey of Halstead, was Jan. 31. Bailey and his wife, Joan, were honored for their $1.2 million gift that raised $2.8 million in private support.
The annex includes a classroom, bathroom, kitchen, storage area for outreach materials, a boardroom, garage for the outreach van and elevator to make the building ADA compliant. The museum has a basement, and in the future, they?d like to house a historical museum there about the history of the Learning Center museum, and archives from Halstead Hospital and the Halstead Hospital School of Nursing.
?(The Baileys?) love and passion for the Kansas Learning Center for Health?s mission, ?To be a premier regional resource for quality health education,? is extremely obvious,? Sooter said.

 

Photos and Story by?Wendy Nugent