Children in bright yellow shirts played, biked, ran, watched programs, sang songs and did art during the past week at Isla Vista School. But this isn’t your typical day camp. It’s a camp that prepares kindergartners for the big wide world of school and beyond.
Safety Town — a 30-year-old program sponsored by Soroptimist International of Santa Barbara — gave the children pointers on all sorts of safety issues: how to cross the street, what to do in case of disasters and who to call for help. With the help of interactive games, close supervision by staff and teen counselors, and visits from local emergency personnel, the children got familiar with the way their community works.
“We’ve had Smokey Bear, Chipper from the California Highway Patrol, firemen and policemen come out,” said Ann Bryant from Child Abuse Listening and Mediation, who also was a speaker at the camp.
On Thursday morning, Bryant gave the children a talk that is important but sometimes difficult for parents to give.
“There are good touches, and there are bad touches,” she said, explaining the differences between affection and sexual abuse. “You own your body, and if someone touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you can say ‘NO!’”
She led the enthusiastic kids in the “special superhero yell” that allows the children to shout ‘No!’ in the loudest voice they can muster.
“They come home with glowing reports of meeting firefighters and police,” said one mother, whose twins are starting at Ellwood School in the fall.
She heard about the Soroptimist Club’s annual safety program held at schools throughout the summer and thought it would be a good idea to get her twins involved. While it will be a while before she lets her daughters walk to school on their own, it’s a relief for her to know that they are well-informed about how to stay safe.
“You do try to teach your kids,” she said, “but sometimes you need to review.”
Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.