Monday, December 11, 2017
Education

Safety first is always the lesson at Pasco's Safety Town

HUDSON

The children's eyes are full of wonder as the school bus pulls up to be greeted by Corp. Creg Bell, a.k.a. "the sheriff" of a pint-sized village called Safety Town.

"Good morning!" Bell says in a booming voice, only to be met with a tepid response from the kindergartners from Schrader Elementary who are busy taking it all in through the bus windows.

"Oh, are we sleepy?" Bell asks. "Now let's try that again."

"GOOD MORNING!"

The third time's the charm for the wee ones who finally bellow back a greeting that's fit to start a day learning everything safety.

"My biggest wish is that we had more time," Bell said, noting that travel and a busy schedule for bus drivers running multiple routes tend to cut into learning time.

Even so, the corporal and his trusty volunteers cover a lot of ground with the hope that what they teach will stick — and maybe even be passed on to younger siblings or parents who might not have gotten around to things such as getting a bike helmet or planning an exit route and outside meeting spot in the event of a house fire.

Among the lessons imparted: how to properly cross the street, how to put on a life vest, how to respond when you come across a hypodermic needle or a gun (Stop! Don't touch! Leave the area. Tell an adult.); calling 911 when someone has been hurt and how to duck and cover on the floor of a miniature house with special effects that produces thunder and lightning and the roaring winds of a whirling tornado.

"Wow, I felt like that was real," Lily Jolly said after weathering the fake storm with her classmates and lining up to move on to the "most dangerous room of the house" to learn about kitchen safety.

Most everything in Safety Town is make-believe — from the miniature house where students learn the importance of mapping out an escape route to the white steepled church used for storage, to the "Home Depot" that houses classrooms and a meeting room. But the lessons are real for the 10,000 youngsters from Pasco and surrounding counties who make the tour annually.

Since 1995 students in grades K-2 have been coming to Safety Town, following a community-based curriculum developed by the Pasco County School District and the Pasco Sheriff's Office with the objective of reducing accidental injuries and deaths of young children.

"This is a rite of passage for kindergarten," Schrader Elementary teacher Tricia Johnson said. She was making her 11th trip to Safety Town. "In all the years I've taught school I can tell you that this has definitely helped so many children."

Safety Town runs on donations and the help of 24 volunteers who act as tour guides, taking students down the sidewalks and through crosswalks complete with traffic lights and stop signs to the various learning stations.

Long-favored activities include a unit on bicycle safety, a 911 calling lesson that prompts a visit from a miniature ambulance that's a real show-stopper with a whirring siren and flashing red lights and a child-size talking and dancing police car.

New this year, and what Bell considers one of the most important lessons, is a unit on gun safety featuring a talk by Bell followed by the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" gun safety video, shown on two 60-inch flat-screen televisions that were donated by New Port Richey Elks Lodge 2284. Coming soon is a new fire safety display courtesy of a newly formed partnership with the Florida Forest Service.

"That's going to be a big surprise," said Bell, noting that Smokey Bear might just be putting in an appearance at the unveiling.

"I love it. I love the interaction. I love the small town and the kids do, too," kindergarten teacher Melissa Pizzo said. "We don't have all this in our (classroom) curriculum, but here it's a one-stop deal. They learn everything they need to know about safety. And it keeps getting better every year."

Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]

   
Comments
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot in her stomac...
Published: 12/08/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

TAMPA — The second Hillsborough County School Board meeting in less than a month took place Tuesday against a backdrop of honking car horns, cheering teachers and audience members moving through the room in shifts.Dressed in blue union-issued T-shirt...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Finalists were announced Tuesday for Hillsborough County Teacher of the year and other honors.Winners will be announced at a banquet on Jan. 16.The finalists for teacher of the year are: Jennifer Jackson, seventh grade science, Stewart Middle; Alexa ...
Published: 12/05/17
High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

It’s been years since the Pinellas County School Board addressed high school start times.But if the issue isn’t resolved in the next few months, it could fall to voters as they decide on who should fill four out of seven School Board seats up grabs i...
Published: 12/05/17