“Stranger Danger” is one of the most valuable lessons that children can learn. It iso especially important that it is emphasized early in their lives because youngsters may find themselves in situations in which they need to put the knowledge to use.
Each summer, Safety Town puts together an agenda that combines education with fun to teach kids not only about stranger awareness, but also fire and water safety, self defense and even driving rules. The camp is sponsored by Soroptimist International’s Santa Barbara Chapter with help from volunteers from National Charity League and other organizations.
To parent Anita Presser, the lessons taught in camp are “the most important things (the kids) can learn. Safety town teaches them the basic information for life.”
When Safety Town campers first arrive at Foothill School, 711 Ribera Drive, they are divided into groups by building in the “Safety Town Village.”
This year, the camp introduced “Echo’s Village,” a newly redesigned village named after Echo Lane, a prominent Santa Barbaran and an active Soroptimist up until her death. Lane’s daughter, Linda Aasted, donated funds for the new village to preserve Lane’s memory and to display her dedicated involvement in the Santa Barbara community. The village painting was done by Michael Dawson, who purposely incorporated details from Lane’s personal life, such as the miniature San Roque Café that stands in the heart of the village. For years, Lane and her husband owned the café, which was known for her cheese pie.
The brand-new Echo’s Village provides a fresh, exciting area for campers to learn about safety. While many of the campers’ favorite part of the camp is the bikes that they get to “drive” around the blacktop (following traffic rules, of course), Safety Town also packs several guest visitors into their schedule. A local ambulance crew, firefighters, Smokey Bear, American Red Cross-Santa Barbara County Chapter personnel and an MTD bus driver are just a few of the many visitors who speak to the kids throughout the week. The camp agenda also includes two art projects daily, playground fun, group songs, puppet shows, and a graduation on Safety Town’s final day.
While the camp makes learning about safety fun, drilling the lessons into the minds of 4- and 5-year-olds isn’t exactly easy. When asked how the information is taught to the campers, counselor Sawyer Campbell cited repetition.
“(The counselors] just keep teaching them the lessons over and over,” Campbell said. “At the end of the day we go over all the lessons we learned that day; enforcement is key for them to learn.”
Fellow counselor Emily Wolff insisted that the “key to (teaching the kids) is patience and energy. If (the counselors) don’t seem like (they’re) having fun, then the kids will lose interest and become bored.”
By the end of the week, parents are generally “thrilled” with the results of Safety Town, and the children have had a busy week of activities that both educate and entertain them. The camp goes above and beyond to make sure the campers learn the lessons that will help them so much in the future.
“We prepare (the kids) for what’s out there,” said Wolff. “We make sure they know what they will encounter later in life and teach them how to avoid situations that could hurt them.”
— Noozhawk intern Kristen Gowdy is a student at Dos Pueblos High School and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.