Touro University students, faculty feed youths' hunger for knowledge

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer

Almost like the green plants around them taking in the sun, several dozen Vallejo school children soaked up knowledge, fresh fruit and exercise under the sky during special field trips this week at Touro University. 

Touro's Mare Island campus served as a backdrop for four groups of elementary-aged children to plant trees, learn about the human body and enjoy healthy food and exercise this week. 

Sarah Nichols, Solano Advocates Green Environments (SAGE) executive director, said a grant secured from the U.S. Forest Service covered the costs of the field trips designed to expose children to nature and the outdoors. 

"Our motto is 'Leave No Child Inside,' " Nichols said, adding that the events were also a kind of "celebration" to the end of several weeks of state testing in Vallejo schools. 

As he gave the children an anatomy lesson, Touro professor Calvin Hisley said he found the boys and girls "amazing" due to the quality of their questions. 

"We're urging them to look beneath the surface of their bodies and try to understand that their bodies are a complex organization," Hisley said. "The body is understandable but you have to look at it systematically." 

To encourage children to get exercise as well as learn more about their bodies, Nichols and the Touro student volunteers had the boys and girls running relays and jumping through the thick grass behind Farragut Inn. 

Before and after they exercised, they measured their heart rates to compare the difference. 

In between healthy eating and exercises, the children and Touro students also helped plant gingko trees throughout the campus. 

Parent volunteer Augustine Nuno said children were learning about science and nature through doing, not studying. 

"There's been a lot of learning and all the kids are working together and laughing," Nuno said. 

Though this has been finals week for Touro students, several volunteered to help out with the field trips. 

Touro medical student Eric Lau said he hoped his efforts would help steer children into healthy lifestyles. 

"A lot of children don't have physical education any more and the PE classes don't teach them about nutrition," Lau said. 

The field trip was doing wonders for the students, said Wardlaw teacher Michael Stern. 

"They are getting of the classroom. It's a big world out there and some of them rarely see much of it," Stern said. 

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

Lorenzo Gunn, 10, from Vallejo's Wardlaw Elementary School, hops through hoops during a health challenge. Touro University students have been working all week with Vallejo elementary children on a variety of health-related and environmental projects. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
Lorenzo Gunn, 10, from Vallejo's Wardlaw Elementary School, hops through hoops during a health challenge. Touro University students have been working all week with Vallejo elementary children on a variety of health-related and environmental projects. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)