Little Medical School is the first children’s program of its kind within the Kitchener-Waterloo Region. It is a STEM based children’s program that originated in the United States. Therefore, the program is the first of its kind in Canada. Children from ages 4-12 participate in interactive learning activities within the field of medicine.
“There are a lot of programs for kids within the Waterloo Region [that focus on] math, science, computer science, coding and dance, but there is nothing that is medical focused for kids,” Winnie Tang, founder of Little Medical School Waterloo Region, said.
The Little Medical School that was founded in the States has programs that focus on veterinary science and pharmaceuticals, in addition to their medical program. The focus is to give children the opportunity to gain knowledge beyond the typical scope of what it means to be a doctor, veterinarian, or pharmacist.
“Right now, I only have the vet programs and the medical doctor, but I hope to bring more of the programs like little pharmacist, little nurse or little dentist to the program,” Tang said.
“It’s a slow process, I didn’t just want to bring out all the programs at one time but slowly bring about interest in all the programs.
Tang further explained that the program emphasizes hands on learning.
“In our classes we let the children utilize all the [medical] tools, like a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heartbeat or syringe without the [actual] needle, blood pressure monitors to measure a patient’s heart beat,” Tang said.
“We alternate the activities we do based on the age level of the children. That way it allows for the children to be engaged in age-appropriate content.”
The curriculum varies weekly by age group and the children enrolled in Little Medical School have the opportunity to learn a different skill, part of the body and career path within the medical profession.
Tang, who’s work background is in data science and IT, doesn’t personally have a medical background, but because the program is developed by American medical professionals and board-certified surgeons, the program is professionally curated to be taught by any adult with any educational background.
“As a doctor-themed program, we start with the different tools a doctor uses … and the other weeks, we talk about the different parts of the body. For example, we talk about the heart and the role of the cardiologist [and] then let the children use a stethoscope,” Tang said.
“We let the children listen to audio clips of an irregular and a regular heartbeat. Again, these are things that doctors do in real life when they have training,” Tang said.
The interactive training portion is meant to give children that hands-on experience. Beyond just the knowledge of medicine, the kids can practice skills pertaining to the specific profession they are learning about.
The program runs weekly for one hour, but in addition to their weekly program, Little Medical School has a Kid’s Night Out event every third Friday of the month for a few hours, in addition to summer camp programming. There are currently approximately 30 kids enrolled, but they are broken up into smaller groups to provide more direct experiences.
“The parents would just drop their kids off for a few hours — perfect for a date night,” Tang said.
Ultimately, Tang would like to see a program like this run in the school system.
“[The goal is] just to inspire the little children to pursue a career in health care, because once you expose them, they kind of understand what it means to be a doctor or a vet and what-not,” Tang said.
“At least that way they know what it is, and then they are inspired to pursue that career when they are older.”