University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Medicine Magazine

Vergennes Seventh Graders Teach UVM Med Students about Adolescence

Seventh graders from Vergennes Middle School visit Generations. From left: Vergennes students Olivia Lorraine, Hannah Paquette, and Kylie Comeau (Photo by Erin Post)
Seventh graders from Vergennes Middle School visit Generations. From left: Vergennes students Olivia Lorraine, Hannah Paquette, and Kylie Comeau (Photo by Erin Post)

On Wednesday, November 13, 2013 second-year University of Vermont medical students learned about adolescence from a very expert group – 88 seventh graders from Vermont’s Vergennes Union Middle School (VUMC). In groups of two and three, the middle-school students presented on a host of topics ranging from suicide to eating disorders to smokeless tobacco to energy drinks in the College of Medicine’s Carpenter Auditorium.

Welcomes were provided by Charlotte Reback, M.D., associate professor of family medicine and director of the College of Medicine’s Generations course, and Barbara Frankowski, M.D., professor of pediatrics and co-organizer of the event – called “Through the Eyes of a Seventh Grader.” Vermont Integrated Curriculum Foundations Coordinator April Berteau, who worked with VUMC teachers in planning and preparing for the event, ensured a smooth, organized flow of presenters.

Each middle-school presenter commented on an aspect of his/her topic that was of the most interest to them. During a talk on anemia, one presenter stated that “many teen girls and vegetarians are at risk of anemia.” Another student shared that his 57-year-old grandfather had smoked since age 14 and was now dealing with lung cancer. Several students self-identified as having personal experience with their topic – including eating disorders, cutting, ADHD, and anxiety.

Special features of the presentation event included video vignettes focused on middleschoolers’ perspectives on “Going to the Doctor,” as well as narrative readings with titles like “Opening Night,” “Metal Mouth,” and “My Big Bass.” In her narrative, titled “Wild Garden,” a seventh-grader read “This is my garden, somewhere off the beaten path. That’s why it’s mine.”

This annual event, the seventh for VUMS teachers and students, is part of the College of Medicine’s seven-week-long Generations course in the Foundations level of the curriculum, which, in addition to adolescence, covers a wide range of biomedical and clinical topics from reproduction to death.

After the event, medical students and middle-school students broke into small groups and held discussions over lunch in the Medical Education Center.