Nearly 70 incoming kindergarteners at Plain City Elementary School spent four days at “Safety Town” to prepare them to be smart and safe students. Pictured above, children use tricycles to “drive” through a mock city complete with functional traffic signals. (Journal-Tribune photo by Kayleen Petrovia)
The incoming kindergarteners at Plain City Elementary will arrive at the school feeling safer and smarter, thanks to a collaborative effort throughout the village.
Community partners came together to host Plain City Safety Town, a crash-course that aims to prepare young children to become students.
“It truly takes a village to go from an idea to an action plan to a reality,” said Mayor Jody Carney.
The four-day program included education on safe practices surrounding animals, traffic, internet, fire, guns, water and poison control.
Carney said 66 students registered for the first, free event in the past several years.
She said Safety Town was not a village-sponsored event, but was made possible by many throughout Plain City.
She said the idea began with a group of local mothers who saw similar programs in surrounding communities.
Carney said her daughter attended a Safety Town program in Hilliard prior to entering kindergarten.
“I just thought, we can do this for Plain City,” she said. “We have to do this for our youth.”
From there, organizing parents pitched the idea to local partners. Plain City Elementary School, the Plain City Public Library, the Union County Health Department and a variety of first responders became involved.
A group of teenagers also volunteered their time to lead groups of younger students.
“It’s a great event of community collaboration,” Carney said.
The first day’s programming revolved around fire safety.
Children had an opportunity to meet firefighters from the Pleasant Valley Fire District, who hosted the session.
In their demonstration smoke house, Carney said children learned how to test opening doors in the case of a fire and follow their family’s exit plan.
She said students also toured a fire truck and spoke with firefighters about the equipment they use. Carney said seeing the gear helps children “not to be afraid.”
The hands-on experience also helps students to retain the information they hear.
Carney said her son, an incoming kindergartener who participated in Safety Town, came home that Monday evening and asked, “Where’s our family meeting place?”
The program continued Tuesday with representatives from Ohio Poison Control, who instructed children how to avoid dangerous substances and tell an adult about any accidents.
Lifeguards from the Plain City Aquatic Center also shared safe swimming rules and reminded children to “never swim by yourself,” Carney said.
Wednesday – or “Police Day” – was particularly popular, Carney said.
She said officers from the Plain City Police Department brought the K9 unit to the elementary school to teach students about their types of patrol. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office and Union County Dog Warden were also present.
PCPD Officer Rob Rubio wore a “bite suit” so PCPD Officer Josh Hirtzinger could demonstrate “K9 Andor in action.”
Carney said it helped children learn that police, including K9 officers, help protect them from “bad guys.”
“We want (the children) to be able to identify the helpers in the community,” Carney said.
The final day of programming consisted of a safety walk, during which students learned how to safely cross streets and watch for vehicles, and a bus safety demonstration that taught them how to ride to school.
“Safety Town” itself was also set up for students to practice the skills they learned so far.
The large mat nearly fills the elementary school gymnasium and depicts a small city, complete with three-dimensional buildings, roads with crosswalks, stop signs and functional traffic signals and railroad crossings.
During the “Safety Town” simulation, some students are “drivers,” who ride tricycles around the streets while “pedestrians” walk through crosswalks to safely deliver mail to the buildings.
“They get to participate and learn by doing,” Carney said.
After four days of learning, Safety Town students graduated on July 29.
Carney said the program was so successful that planning for next year’s edition is already underway.
“With your own child, you can teach them everything about safety.. but (it’s different) to hear from another adult they respect,” she said.