The Junior League of Central Westchester (JLCW) hosted "Safety Town," a week-long comprehensive educational program that taught safety awareness and accident prevention to children entering kindergarten this upcoming September.
“JLCW projects are developed to address the needs of the community and chosen based on member interest,” explained Lynn Marvin, president of the Junior League of Central Westchester. “The curriculum, which was developed by the National Safety Town Center 45 years ago, has been adjusted throughout the years and seemed a perfect fit.”
The first Safety Town premiered in the community in 1999. With such a strong template already in place, the JLCW members make minor reworks and improvements as needed for the following year’s program. The fundamental component that remained for each year, however, was ensuring that children learned through participation.
"Children learn critical safety skills while having fun," Marvin said. "They may not even know they are learning.”
According to Marvin, this year's program included 18 children part of the Family Services of Westchester's Head Start program, illustrating the program's far reach.
In the Safety Town program, the classrooms are not typical. The expected classroom student desks and blackboards are transformed into a specially-designed village layout, supplementing the children’s learning and preparing them for real-life situations.
Complete with houses, sidewalks, crosswalks and street markings, this year's model village was set up to help the children use the skills they learned to safely navigate their way through the village.
“The program teaches incoming kindergarteners important safety skills that we hope will carry with them through their school years,” Marvin said.
Developed by the National Safety Town Center, Safety Town was organized around a set of core topics or safety themes. The topics that were covered over the span of this year's five-day program included emergency phone numbers and police contacts, poison and first aid, fire, traffic lights, strangers, water and tricycle and bus safety.
Teachers and volunteer safety officials led the children through four activity areas using the core topics as themes. “Each day has a safety theme, and it is visited in each of the areas. The repetition is a helpful learning tool,” Marvin said.
The activity areas music, art, safety and tarp-time added to the overall learning experience. “Tarp-time provides some physical activity while the children learn their street smarts. And during safety time, the children are introduced to and interact with the safety representative for the day,” Marvin said.
During tarp-time, the children would ride their tricycles — while wearing their bike helmets, of course —around and through the model village. The teachers and safety officials would also walk the children through different "street-related" skills each day.
The safety officials were local police officers and fire fighters, which Marvin said strengthens the community aspect of this program. Lifeguards, ambulance corps and crossing guards could also be additional safety officials beneficial to the program, Marvin said.
The JLCW Safety Town co-chairs Sara Friedman and Pam Fuehrer spearheaded the program, aided by 11 other committee members who, according to Marvin, each averaged 30 hours on the Safety Town project since the committee began meeting last February.
Thanks to the committee’s dedication and long hours, over 65 children participated in a successful 2011 Safety Town.
“Safety Town is a great training program for the kids and has been very successful and rewarding in the past when we have done it," said JLCW member Judith Berger.
At this point, Safety Town is not slated as a Junior League of Central Westchester project for 2011-12. “The JLCW aims to develop programs that can be taken over and sustained by its community partners. It is our hope that this will be the case next year," Marvin said.
So keep an eye open for next year’s JLCW Safety Town and find out more on how you as the community can pitch in and get involved.