Kindergartners learn about eyes
Almost everything students at Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge needed to know about eyesight they learned in kindergarten.
For a few weeks the lower school division’s kindergarten students have learned about their five senses, and to emphasize sight, they learned a little song about the ways their eyes work, set to a tune similar to “London Bridge is Falling Down.”
“Do you know about your eyes, about your eyes, about your eyes?” they sang a few times in an assembly last week. “Do you know about your eyes? Can you tell me now?”
The 36 kindergarten students at Episcopal can tell anyone who asks all about their eyes.
Dr. Marie D. Acierno, chief of ophthalmology at LSU Health Sciences Center in Baton Rouge, has visited the school every fall for five years to teach children about their eyes through the deliberately pun-filled “Eye Opening Program.” At the beginning of her program, she asked what the colored part of their eyes was called.
Hands shot up and several squirmy students shouted, “The iris!”
Acierno looked impressed.
How do 5- and 6-year-old kids know that fact? The song’s second verse taught them.
“The iris is the colored part, the colored part, the colored part,” they sing. “The iris is the colored part, blue, green or brown.”
Last year after Acierno visited the school, the kindergarten teachers developed the song’s three verses to attach a few facts to their memories.
“How many old song lyrics are still in your brain?” said Bridget Berrigan, a kindergarten teacher at Episcopal. “That’s why we made that.”
Acierno’s hourlong presentation — complete with rubbery eyeballs and a massive eye the size of a softball that breaks in two — caps the students’ senses lesson.
“This brings it all together, and it goes deeper than we could go,” Berrigan said.
Three dozen shuffling, antsy students listened to Acierno, who used a softball-sized model to describe how their eyes work and answered questions. Acierno said she believes “it is important to teach young students about the importance of vision.”
So many of them will have glasses soon — two of the students already did — and members of their family will develop vision issues in the future.
While they learned to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes outside, they also learned not to play with anyone else’s glasses, which could be very expensive. “Respect the spectacles,” Acierno told them.
When they broke into three groups, two LSU medical students Acierno brought along helped with hands-on education.
Nick Frisard, a fourth-year student at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, gave pen lights to students and asked them to point the lights in their partners’ eyes. The lesson showed them how the pupil responds to light, which happened to be covered in their song’s third and final verse.
“The pupil can be big or small, big or small, big or small,” as they sang it later. “The pupil can be big or small, in the dark or light.”
Wearing pink and purple-framed glasses she picked out at Target, 5-year-old Taylor Burden shined a light into the eyes of 6-year-old William Ribes, who started to squirm.
“Stay still,” Taylor told him, grabbing his arm. “Stay still.”
“It’s kind of bright,” William said.
At the next station they all tried on different types of sunglasses, from cool 1980s-era glasses that would have been at home in an early MTV video to a pair of comically huge yellow plastic novelty shades that Ben Barney, 5, wore.
“They’re big and they don’t fit that well,” said the blue-eyed Ben, who admitted he doesn’t wear sunglasses most of the time. “I only wear them on really sunny days.”
After the children all played with Acierno’s squishy model eyeballs, they lined up and sang their song for the doctor. Then she had one more lesson for them about assisting the blind.
Don’t play with a blind person’s service dog unless you ask first, she told them. Those animals are “hard at work.” And what do they do if they see a person tap, tap, tapping a cane around a store?
“If you’re at Wal-Mart, and you go to see a person with a cane like that, do you want to be running or whizzing by them?”
“No!” they answered.
They can, however, help lead a blind man or woman across a street, Acierno said. A volunteer from the class helped lead Frisard across the auditorium as an example.
“Many of our patients are out ... they are all around the state of Louisiana, and I want to know you are out there helping them,” Acierno said.
The doctor started her program because she knows many of the children will start going for vision screens, and they need to know why their eyes must be checked regularly.
All puns aside, she said she hoped the lessons truly were eye opening for the children.