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Helicopters, firefighters and politicians descend on area schools for Teach-In

ST. PETERSBURG — The children of Bay Point Elementary were amazed at the sight of a huge Black Hawk helicopter sitting on their P.E. field Wednesday morning.

The aircraft and its crew were visiting as part of the Great American Teach-In. Hundreds of parents and volunteers across the Tampa Bay area went to schools to talk about their careers, which included everything from firefighters to politicians to scientists to document shredders.

But one of the coolest props was the Black Hawk, operated by the six-person "Phoenix Dustoff" Army MedEvac unit out of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport.

"Do you guys know what an ambulance is?" Maj. Michael E. Alvis asked the Bay Point students. "Well, we're an air ambulance."

Alvis explained the various parts of the helicopter, noting that devices on the sides were not bombs.

Just before first period at Benito Middle School in New Tampa, Chuck Echeniqe walked into a class full of sleepy-eyed seventh graders with traces of mud still on his boots. He wore camouflage and carried a bang stick, which he planned to tell the kids was designed to put a bullet into the head of an alligator.

"What did you have for dinner last night," he asked them. Many said meat.

He espoused the benefits of professional hunting – population control, economics and fun. He showed them his duck call and his turkey call then played a video of a night time gator hunt.

By the end of the video, some of the kids were hiding their faces and others were screaming, "Awesome!

A few classrooms over, NASA representative Lisa Arnold enumerated the many things we can thank the space program for: Ingestible toothpaste. Wireless Headseats. Memory foam mattresses.

Maurcus Smith, 13 raised his hand.

He asked what would happen if someone jumped off the space station. Would they land on earth?

"No," she said. "You'd burn up and die."

Facebook, the popular online social networking site, was filled with status updates from people everywhere who were excited, anxious or proud to be speaking at area schools Wednesday morning.

"Great American Teach In at Gibbs High this morning," Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch posted. "Very sharp, forward thinking students!"

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe posted, "Listening to a great school chorus — Dad's Breakfast — will be speaking to several elementary classes today."

And Ana Cruz, a Tampa-based Democratic consultant who is a senior adviser to U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek's campaign, said she was at Lake Magdalene Elementary School, "talking to 2nd graders about elections."

"They are so cute," she posted.

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Helicopters, firefighters and politicians descend on area schools for Teach-In 11/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 8:44am]

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