BRADENTON -- Ballard Elementary fifth-graders sat in front of defibrillator dummies that were almost as large as they are, pumping the dummies' chests to the beat of a drum.
"Put some strength into it, and stay with the rhythm. You are learning how to save a life," their teachers encouraged.
Martha Reith and Joseph Grant, affiliates of the American Heart Association and instructors at the Manatee Technical Institute, visited Ballard on Thursday to demonstrate skills for CPR and
saving a choking victim -- even showing them how to use automated external defibrillators.
Fifth-grader Lucien Vigneault is proud of what he learned.
"I know how to do CPR with children, infants and adult correctly now," he said. "I think I can save a life."
This is Grant's third year teaching the workshop at Ballard.
"We give them the basics, and it opens up their minds," Grant said. "They learn how to help people."
Along with the basics, Reith and Grant taught the children how to recognize if someone needs CPR, how to recognize and help someone who is choking, how to perform mouth-to-mouth and how to work as a team when delivering CPR.
"This does a lot of good. You are giving someone a chance they might not have had," Reith said.
While the students were having a lot of fun with the workshop, Reith and Grant stressed that these tools could help them save each other, their parents and neighbors or even their pets. Reith recounted a story about how her daughter once saved her dog by performing "mouth-to-snout."
"By the end of the day, any one of you can save somebody," Reith said.
While the students did not actually get CPR-certified, they received books and a plaque for friends and family CPR. What they learned is enough to keep someone alive until more help comes.
Fifth-graders are the youngest that the MTI instructors teach, because students need to be mature enough and physically strong enough to perform CPR. A person has to have the stamina to do CPR consistently for two minutes.
Barbara Stacho, guidance counsellor at Ballard Elementary, said the workshop is funded through a grant awarded by the Manatee Education Foundation with the support of Manatee Memorial Hospital.
"It's a great opportunity," Stacho said. "I try to apply for the grant every year."
Reith and Grant, along with other MTI instructors, will also visit Freedom Elementary and Bashaw Elementary next week.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081