For the past 20 years, Burleigh Elementary School has made safety a part of its curriculum for its youngest students.
That is how long the school has been involved in Safety Town, a nationally recognized leader in developing a personal safety consciousness among kindergartners and other students.
The Burleigh program dates back to Bil Zahn, the long-tenured former principal who agreed that it was a valuable learning tool. Kindergarten teacher Katie Hillig coordinates the two-week program for K-5 kids to coincide with the youngsters' first weeks in school.
Safety in many forms
"It's a great introduction for the students because it helps them be much more aware as they experience different environments," Hillig said. "I know they get a great deal out of it."
What the students get is a lesson in safety covering a wide variety of situations - involving pedestrians, bicycles, fires, poison, pets and railroads.
"It's a broad array of topics, but the students like it and the parents like it," said Hillig, noting that the students "graduate" at a special ceremony each year.
The latest group received their safety certificates in a special ceremony Oct. 9
At the ceremony, parents said their youngsters benefit from the experience.
"She comes home singing safety songs and tells us what she has learned," said Darby Clegg, referring to her daughter, 5-year-old Macy. "I think it's great that the school offers the course."
Steve Smith said he is happy that his daughter, 5-year-old Maia, has the opportuity to go through the same course that her sibling completed the course 10 years ago.
"This is the kind of program that is very popular," Smith said, "because parents want to keep their kids safe."
Hillig credits the program's success to community support, most notably from Denise Carroll, the Brookfield Police Department's community service officer who coordinates the Safety Town visits to the police and fire departments.
Carroll, who also coordinates a wider program during the summer as part of her overall community outreach duties, said her Safety Town work is a labor of love.
"This program is so very important," she said. "The students get the proper instruction and training in so many areas of safety. It gets them started on making safety a habit. It's a good foundation."
Carroll coordinates safety programs with Burleigh as well as St. Dominic School. While the basics have remained the same, she said the program content has changed with the times. That is especially true in personal safety.
"We used to do Stranger Danger," she said. "Now, we have Charlie Check-In, where we teach youngsters to check in with the grownup in charge around them when they are going to do something different or go somewhere with another adult."
Carroll said parents appreciate the program. She pointed to a letter she received from a parent in another town whose child went through the training. While attending a parade, the girl became separated from her parents and knew to go to a police officer. She also knew her parents' cell phone number.
Safety Town history
The original Safety Town program was established in 1937 by a Mansfield, Ohio, police commissioner and kindergarten teacher. It was developed as a pedestrian safety program after a young child had been killed in a traffic accident.
It became a national program in 1964 in Bedford, Ohio, with comedian Bill Cosby as its honorary chairman.
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