Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kids scream for their safety


As more than 60 kindergarten and first-grade students rose to their feet to practice their “Superhero Safety Yell,” organizers of a safety program at Foothill Elementary School warned parents to cover their ears.
“I want you to yell “No!” at me louder than you have ever yelled in your life,” Ann Bryant, an education coordinator with Child Abuse Listening and Mediation (CALM), told the kids. “1...2...3!”
“Nooooo!” they shrieked, their tiny bodies producing a roar rivaling that of a jet engine.

As they take part in the week-long “Safety Town” program, the kids will learn about pedestrian, earthquake, bicycle, beach, pool and home safety, as well as how to avoid drugs and strangers. Police, firefighters, paramedics and even Smokey the Bear make appearances throughout the program, held at various times throughout June and July.
“They come home and they love to talk about what they did that day,” Gabriella Frederick, whose 5-year-old son Zane is attending Safety Town this week, told the Daily Sound. “...He really liked Smokey the Bear.”
Organized by Soroptimist International of Santa Barbara, the program features lessons indoors and in a miniature model of a city built to the scale of the kids. They practice driving and pedestrian safety with small toy cars, said Jo Bittner, Child Director for Safety Town.
“They learn how to cross the street safely,” Bittner said, adding that the children behave themselves and don’t try to hit each other while driving.
Yesterday, Bryant came to speak to the kids for about half an hour, involving them with a discussion of the differences between good touching and bad touching.
“You don’t ever ever ever ever have to keep a secret about someone who tries to touch your private parts,” Bryant said, eliciting a few giggles from the crowd.
Several kids suggested high-fives, holding hands with a friend and hugging as examples of good touching. Bryant also asked for examples of bad touching, receiving responses ranging from punching to throwing rocks to chopping off someone’s head and running away.
Gabriella Frederick said she talks to her children about safety often, but finds that Safety Town has been a little more successful.
“It’s rare that they get this focused,” Frederick said. “It’s a little more exciting when they have their teen counselor and their friends here with them.”
About 40 teenagers volunteer their time to help out at Safety Town, Bittner said, which lasts from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Bryant said the “Superhero Safety Yell” is usually one of the more popular exercises among the kids.
“I tell them to make my ears hurt,” she said, “and they do a very good job.”

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