Pharmacy students offer a carnival of learning

Taleah Water, 8, left, Casmyn Howard, 9, and Keirra Reed, 13, right, play word games as they eat pizza during the Literacy Carnival put on by the UF college of pharmacy and the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, held at the Eastside Community Center, in Gainesville, Saturday Dec. 1, 2012. Target sponsored the event, which provided young people literacy based games as well as prizes.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 5:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 5:46 p.m.

A dusting of powder and a black light did more to teach kids about germs and the importance of washing your hands than any admonishment from mom or dad -- which was one of the goals of the inaugural literacy festival staged by University of Florida pharmacy students.

The festival drew hundreds of kids and their parents to the Eastside Recreation Center Saturday for educational games, food and other activities in an effort to help kids learn and to help the pharmacy students connect with the community.

"We wanted to come up with an event that would get kids interested in reading and writing. When I was a kid, I loved carnival things and thought, why can't we incorporate that into it?" said student Stephanie Scali, who organized the festival. "Being a pharmacist is much more than filling a prescription. It's also an ability to relate to people. I feel this is going to make me a much better professional."

Children earned prizes by stopping at various stations at which pharmacy students led them in educational games. At one station, for instance, youngsters had to give the opposite of several words on a list. Another station dealt with synonyms and antonyms.

Some of the stations featured health issues. One had a three-foot-tall handmade book about kidney function. But perhaps the most effective lesson came at a station about germs.

A pharmacy student would lightly powder her hand, shake hands with the youngster and then shine a black light -- which glows purple -- on the hand. The light revealed the powder, which was a stand-in for germs.

"I learned how germs can be passed very quickly from hand to hand and how you have to wash you hands," said Tameshia Waters, who was at the event with her sister, Jakiya. "And I learned more about verbs and adjectives than I do in school."

The festival also featured health screenings for parents, the library bookmobile and outdoor activities such as a bounce house.

Sarah Carswell, assistant dean of student affairs at the College of Pharmacy, said the event will give pharmacy students a better understanding to the importance of knowing the community in which they will eventually be working.

Carswell added that the college would like to make the festival an annual event.

"By supporting the community that supports their education, they will leave here as better pharmacists," she said.

The festival was sponsored by Target Inc., which provides grants for schools and for community education events.

Target district team leader Patrick Henning, who came from Tallahassee for the festival, said it may become a model event for Target to sponsor elsewhere.

Going station to station with his three children, Roger Howard said he learned of the festival from a flier his daughter brought home from school.

"We're having fun and there seems to be a lot that the kids are learning," Howard said.

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