Halle Heart Children’s Museum

My opportunity to work at the Halle Heart Children’s Museum (HHCM) happened completely by accident.  I was searching for volunteer opportunities for another non-profit when I came across a posting for a Heart Guide position at HHCM.  I had never heard of the museum before, but once I went to the website and saw the huge anatomical heart on display in one of the exhibits, I was hooked.
Working for the American Heart Association (AHA) and HHCM part-time has been extremely gratifying, and a great learning experience.   One of the perks of working for a non-profit is the potential to wear many hats and work on a variety of projects.  I’ve done just that- so here is a more detailed overview of my projects at HHCM.  If you’re curious about the museum, continue reading for a general tour that will help you appreciate this one-of-a-kind organization.  Words and pictures, however, do not do it justice.  You have to come in and experience it for yourself.

History

The original Halle Heart Center opened in 1996, thanks in large part to the contributions of Diane and Bruce Halle, the Founder and Chairman of Discount Tire.  In 2011, the museum was renovated and re-opened as the Halle Heart Children’s Museum in Tempe, Arizona.   Run by the American Heart Association (AHA), it is the only cardiovascular learning facility in the country.  Geared specifically towards children, it creates an interactive and educational experience that emphasizes cardiovascular disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle.  However, people of all ages can learn something new about their hearts and health at the museum.

Exhibits

The museum consists of eight different exhibits, each focusing on a different area of health.  In a world full of complicated and confusing health information, the museum keeps it simple by emphasizing three points: Eat a balanced diet, Exercise, and Say no to tobacco.

Stay The Course

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Stay The Course educates visitors about the dangers of smoking.  An interactive wheel shows how various parts of the body are negatively affected by smoking.  Visitors can then participate in a mini golf activity where they attempt to hit a “red blood cell” through a narrowing “blood vessel,” visually showing how the narrowing of arteries due to smoking makes it more difficult for blood to pass through.

9-1-1 Action Theater

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At the 9-1-1 Action Theater, visitors watch a short, age-appropriate video about what to do if someone is having a heart attack and needs CPR.  They are educated on three things to remember: Stay calm, Call 9-1-1, and Listen for instructions.  They are also given an overview of what an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is and how to use it.

All Creatures Great and Small

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All Creatures Great and Small takes visitors on an animal adventure to learn fun heart facts while comparing the sounds of heart beats of various animals, including humans.  There is even a full-size replica of a giraffe heart.  As a general rule, the larger an animal’s heart, the slower the resting heart rate.  However, there are exceptions to this rule which visitors learn about at the museum.

Kitchen Cafe

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In Kitchen Cafe, visitors learn about serving size and balanced meals in a real commercial kitchen. They can peek into the kitchen cabinets and see the difference in fat  content between a baked potato and french fries, or ice cream and frozen yogurt. During the summer, the museum partners with St. Mary’s Food Bank to offer free lunches here daily to all children under 18 years old.

The Beat Goes On

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The Beat Goes On emphasizes the health benefits of exercise with an interactive video that gets visitors up and exercising.  They learn that the heart is a M.O.P.- a muscle, organ, and pump. It needs daily exercise to stay healthy.

Goldman Legacy Theatre

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In Goldman Theatre, the movie “Max’s Magical Delivery” takes visitors on an educational journey about making healthy food choices and the importance of exercise.

The Marketplace

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The Marketplace looks and feels like a real grocery store.  Visitors are introduced to Choose MyPlate recommendations for creating a balanced meal.  They learn how to properly read a nutrition label, paying special attention to fat, sugar, calories and serving size.  To test their knowledge, they can create a meal by selecting food from the shelves and going through the”check out” line to learn the fat content of their choices.  I’ve asked kids which exhibit they like best, and this is hands down the favorite.

Follow Your Heart

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Follow Your Heart is the pièce de résistance.  In the middle of this exhibit sits a large anatomical model of the heart- the same size as the heart of a blue whale.  Here, visitors learn about the structure of the heart and the circulatory system.

Tours

During the school year, the museum provides school tours for second and fifth graders.  Led by a Heart Guide, each two-hour tour covers the eight exhibits while meeting 18 science, health and physical education standards for both age groups.  Some schools are even eligible for transportation funding assistance if they qualify.  The Camp Heart Beat program provides tours and free lunches for groups during the summer.  In addition to scheduled school tours, the museum is open to the general public specific hours during the week.

Programming

HHCM provides a variety of special programming throughout the week.  In Toddler Test Kitchen, toddlers and parents learn how to cook healthy meals together.  The class has been known to turn even the pickiest eaters around.  Heart Art allows kids to use their imagination to create their own art masterpiece.  Science Hour teaches kids about science using arts and crafts and science experiments.  Health Hour, which I teach, focuses on educating kids and parents about different health topics and empowering them to make healthy decisions.

 

Final Thoughts

The mission of the Halle Heart Children’s Museum is to engage, educate, and empower visitors to make heart healthy lifestyle choices.  I can tell you it does this, and more.  It not only educates, but makes learning about health fun- a very difficult thing to do.  It’s almost like Disneyland for health education.  From the moment I walked into the Halle Heart Children’s Museum, I could tell it was a special place.  I never envisioned that at this point in my career I would be working for the AHA and a Children’s Museum, but I am honored to be a part of an organization dedicated to positively impacting the lives of children and trying to make the future better for them, and our world.

Want to make a difference?

donate_button_lubdub Support The Museum

Non-profits are always in need of funding, and the Halle Heart Children’s Museum is no exception.  Community support will help keep the mission of HHCM alive.  If you donate, please make sure to comment that you were directed by the Curious Pharmacist!