Genoa Middle is inaugural participant in virtual “Realeyes” program

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{Left) Realeyes Program Manager Matt Fink works with Genoa Middle School students in the Ohio Optometric
Association’s first ever virtual presentation of its Realeyes program. (Right) Eye doctors present age-appropriate
lessons about the importance of vision and learning.





With all types of learning transitioning to online virtual environments, it’s only natural for programs made available to schools and traditionally presented in person to follow suit. Last month, Genoa Middle School students in Science Teacher Tina Bardwell’s class became the first ever “virtual” participants in the Ohio Optometric Association’s (OOA) Realeyes program.

Now in its 20th year, Realeyes connects PreK through 12th-grade classrooms with eye doctors in the community who present age-appropriate, standardized, interactive curricula about the importance of vision and learning. Funds to support the free initiative come through the Ohio Department of Health’s Save Our Sight program through donations given when residents renew their license plates.

 “For the first time ever, we tried a live virtual presentation to five classes at Genoa Middle School, and it went great!” said OOA Realeyes Program Manager Matt Fink. “Mrs. Bardwell's students were attentive and so fun to work with.”

Fink said presenters used a variety of teaching methods during Genoa’s session to keep participants interested, including a True or False Trivia Game for extra credit in which students voted by holding up a piece of paper with a "T" or "F" on it.

“Documents were sent to students ahead of time so they could try some of the hands on activities with us, we took questions from students when they waived their hands, and we also utilized the chat feature during our virtual presentations and addressed their questions that way,” Fink explained. “What we learned from this experience with Mrs. Bardwell and her students from Genoa will be used across the state if virtual presentations need to become the norm for schools in the fall.”

The majority of schools in the Westerville City School District have taken advantage of in-person Realeyes presentations over the years. During the quarantine, Realeyes also released at-home versions of the presentations that several schools already signed up for. Any parent or teacher interested the FREE at-home science and help lessons can sign up through the program’s online registration form.

Associate Dean for Research of The Ohio State University College of Optometry Dr. Jeff Walline, OD, OhD, gave three of the recent presentations to Genoa’s students.

“Seventy percent of what a child learns is through sight, and research shows that one in four children has an undetected eye disorder,” Dr. Walline explained. “Vision is important to childhood learning, and vision care is critical to the academic development of Ohio’s children. Many children accept blurred vision or eyestrain caused by nearsightedness, farsightedness, or other vision problems because they think everyone sees the way they do.”  

Dr. Walline said early identification and treatment of vision problems is essential, and while screenings can effectively identify some vision problems in young children, it’s important to follow up on a vision screening referral with a complete eye exam.

“Despite the fact that vision exams can be reliably performed in infants and children, only 14 percent of children entering school have had an eye exam by an eye doctor,” added Dr. Walline. “Most childhood vision problems are readily treatable, and children with untreated vision problems may be at a disadvantage in school, so parents should have their child’s eyes examined by an eye doctor.”

Offered in all of Ohio’s 88 counties, Realeyes is the only vision education program in the country and has been presented to over 1.3 million students throughout the state.