Kids Get Safe with Safety Town

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Safety Town ribbon cutting ceremonyMADISON – Safety Town, a partnership between Safe Communities and Madison School and Community Recreation (MSCR) that teaches personal safety measures to children, kicked off for the summer at Madison's Franklin Elementary School Monday.
American Family Children's Hospital, represented by Madison Area Safe Kids Coalition coordinator Nan Peterson, RN, is a Safety Town sponsor.
Wielding oversized scissors and flanked by the 42 pre-kindergarten participants, Safety Town mayor Scruff McGruff cut the yellow ribbon (pictured) in the Franklin Elementary gymnasium, signaling Safety Town's commencement.
"We basically cover everything from nutrition and eating and that kind of safety to really basic animal safety, like when kids are out at parks," said MSCR outreach manager Sharon Neylon. "We focus on water safety and then moving around your community – crossing streets, walking on the sidewalk, staying away from driveways."
Roughly 400 children will participate in Safety Town this summer, and Safe Communities executive director Cheryl Wittke said one key to the program's effectiveness is introducing kids to the concept of safety while they're young.
"These are all children who will be entering kindergarten this year, which is a great time to reach them with safety messages," she said.
In Safety Town, the group of children are divided up into seven distinct towns. Each town experiences the Safety Town curriculum together as a group.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, each town received lessons courtesy of the American Red Cross in hand washing as a way to prevent the spread of germs and illness, followed by instruction by a local cardiology nurse on how to keep your heart healthy.
In the coming weeks those lessons will be supplemented by sessions about nutrition and food safety, safety around pets and wild animals, water safety, pedestrian safety and the importance of using seat belts, booster seats and bike helmets.
“Parents want to make sure that their kids are safe and that they know how to keep themselves safe," said Peterson, who will fitting bike helmets this week at Safety Town.
"It's all about harm and injury prevention," said Madison Fire Department community education officer Bernadette Galvez, who was on hand for the opener. "Safety is number one on our list."
Myesha, a Madison resident whose 6-year-old daughter is participating in Safety Town, said she heard other parents talking enthusiastically about the program during her daughter's kindergarten registration.
"I'm really hoping she will learn in general about safety," she said. "We've done the basics, with crossing the street and things like that. For her to learn it and hear it from someone else, rather than just from mom and dad (will be beneficial)."
Galvez agreed, and also stressed the importance of the collaborative, active environment, which gives the children a chance to participate while learning.
"The kids learn every single day. They are totally filled with all kinds of knowledge, and a lot of it is interactive, so they remember," she said. "What's really cool about this program is they bring it home and end up teaching their siblings and even their parents."
MSCR outreach manager Sharon Neylon can attest to that. She still hears from parents whose children were part of the inaugural Safety Town graduating class four years ago.
"I'll see people who will say, 'My kids still talk about the program,'" she said. "It's focusing in on safety in this setting that really solidifies it for them."
Date published: 6/23/2008

Date Published: 06/24/2008

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