DALLAS TWP. — Flashing police vehicle lights between Wycallis and Dallas elementary schools on Monday, May 9, were not a warning signal, but a sign of learning.
Over 1,000 students took time away from their books to visit an event called Safety Preparedness Day, organized by Dallas Township Police Officer and School Resource Officer Gina Kotowski.
The two-hour event was held in the parking lot between the district’s two soccer fields.
Safety Preparedness Day gave pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade students an opportunity to meet and talk to police officers, firefighters, emergency response teams, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services, Northeast Highway Safety Program, the Dallas Township Road Department and the United States Air Force.
The idea of pulling a variety of community agencies together for students started with Kotowski playing cars with some Dallas Elementary School first-grade boys.
“The boys were full of questions about my police car,” Kotowski said.
She later found out the class was learning about community-based jobs.
“Safety Preparedness Day grew out of a challenge by the Dallas Elementary School’s first-grade class,” she said.
The event was meant to familiarize the children with police officers, fire and ambulance personnel and their equipment to reduce fear during an emergency situation.
“We (police, firefighters and EMS) are trained to help and sometimes when we are in ‘life-saving mode,’ we don’t realize that kids can be scared of our masks and equipment,” Kotowski said. “Teaching children not to be afraid of us is invaluable.”
The children, grouped according to their classroom, spent several minutes at each of the 11 stations exploring equipment and asking questions.
Bob Wagner with the Dallas Township Road Department challenged the kindergarten and first-grade classes to see if they could fit their whole class in the bucket of a large front-end loader.
Dominic Coburn and Ella Coats, both first-grade students at Dallas Elementary School did not think their class would fit, but they did.
At the Northeast Region Wildlife Conservation station, students learned what to do if they encounter one of Pennsylvania’s many black bears this summer.
“Never try to out-run or out-climb a bear,” Gerald L. Kapral, conservation officer, told a class of fourth-grade students. “Bears can run 30 to 35 miles-per-hour. You should make as much noise as possible and try to make yourself look as big as possible.”
To prevent bears from entering yards, Kapral said the food source needs to be removed.
“Put trash cans in a garage or shed, take away bird feeders,” Kapral said.
If a bear still does not leave a yard, Kapral explained how his agency uses a tubular shaped bear trap, baited with donuts, to capture a bear, tag it and relocated it to a remote forest.
Summer fun often involves being around water and a message of safety from Officer John Cummings of the fish and boat commission encouraged students to wear a lifejacket when boating and make sure an adult is aware if they are going near water.
Bicycle safety was the message Keri Kline of the Northeast Highway Safety Program shared with all students.
“A lot of students are learning the proper way to wear a bicycle helmet,” she said.
Back Mountain Regional EMS and Kingston Township D.A.R.E. Officer John Fuches gave students a glimpse of what the inside of their vehicles looked like.
“I liked seeing the bars inside of Officer Fuches’ vehicle,” Olivia Thomas, a fourth-grade student at Dallas Elementary School said. “I liked seeing what happens when they arrest someone.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews