On Oct. 13, Lord Baltimore Elementary School students and staff, along with members of the Bethany Beach and Millville volunteer fire companies, commenced a week of activities highlighting fire safety, in recognition of Fire Prevention Week.
“They love it,” said LB Principal Dr. Janet Hickman of the 665 students at the school. “Both fire companies plan activities that are age-appropriate and very motivating to the children. They bring a smokehouse. They do a contained fire out on the playground, and they put it out with a fire extinguisher.”
Hickman said that Fire Prevention Week has been a staple at the school for at least 30 years. She added that the fire departments give students tours of ambulances, and kindergarteners even get to take a field trip to the fire hall.
“They do something different for each grade level, so you never repeat. It’s not that this year you do this, and next year you do the same thing. Every year they do a different activity, so every grade level gets a different experience.”
Following a week of activities within the school, awards are presented to students for the best posters and essays created regarding fire safety – part of statewide fire-prevention campaigns.
“The little ones do their posters here at school,” explained Hickman. “K through third do their posters, and they do them at here. Four and five do the essays, and most of the time they send them home, but they’re polished and finished here at school. It’s directed to be the students’ work and not parents helping too much.”
The posters and essays are then given to the fire department to judge and select winners for each grade.
“We had a group of six judges, and they were all firefighters,” said MaryBeth Murray of the Bethany Beach Fire Company. “The state gives us topics for them to go by for each grade. We go by staying on the topic, neatness and just the quality of the work.”
“It takes an awful lot of time [to choose the winners] because there were so many great posters and essays; we had a hard time sorting out who would be the winner,” said Monte Wisbrock of BBFC to LB students at the awards ceremony.
Fifth-grader Riley Blatzheim won first place for her essay, which featured a teapot informing kids of fire safety practices in the kitchen. She not only won a pizza party for her class but received scholarship money and a new bicycle.
“That was one of my favorites in the last 10 years, because that was a lot of imagination and definitely was good reading,” said Murray of Blatzheim’s essay. “I’m really proud of all of them. I hope they make it to the county and to the state.”
Students who won trophies for their posters and essays received trophies and earned a pizza party for their class. Student winners were:
• Pre-kindergarten: “Identify Things In the Home That Will Burn You” – Emma Cosgrove;
• Kindergarten: “Identify Things In the Home That Will Burn You” – first place, Renia Turcios; second place, Madison Neal; third place, Samuel Beebe;
• First grade: “Dangers of Matches, Lighters and Smoking Materials” – first place, Mya MacDonald; second place, Thomas Gogarty; third place, Liam Meadows;
• Second grade: “Knowing How to Escape from a Fire” – first place, Ava Tomlinson; second place, Olivia Folliard; third place, Daniel Esparza;
• Third grade: “Identify Home Fire Hazards” – first place, Olivia Hudson; second place, Brighid Loftus; third place, Colin Hudson; “ILC: Stop, Drop and Roll” – Harmony Tvelia; “What Would You Do If Your Clothes Catch on Fire,” Merna Schafer;
• Fourth grade: “What Would you Do if Your Clothes Catch On Fire,” first place, Zoe Trumble; second place, Chole McCabe; third place, Hannah Townsend;
• Fifth grade: “Fire Safety in the Kitchen” – first place, Riley Blatzheim; second place, Lucianna Wichert; third place, Arielle Parker.
Third-grader Olivia Hudson said that the week was full of fun activities that she and her classmates enjoyed.
“We went to this house thingy and, this fireman, he showed us what can make fires and everything. We went outside to see Sparky, and we made posters all throughout the week,” she recalled.
Hudson, who won first place for her poster on identifying home fire hazards, said that one piece of safety information she had learned was related to appliances near water.
“Well, if you’re in the bathtub and you reach to the radio – never do that because it might slip and fall into the bathtub and shock you.”
Murray said that planning the week’s activities takes more than six months, from scheduling to designing T-shirts for the kids, but all the time and effort is well worth it.
Asked about the best part of the yearly event, she said, “The hugs. We walk through these hallways and get so many hugs. For the 10 years of doing this, we had one little boy three or four years ago, he remembered what we talked about. He had a house fire, and they did not have a working smoke detector. He remembered what we told him and got his family out. “
Hickman added that it’s a great week for kids to learn outside of the classroom and have a better understanding of safety.
“It’s a great learning experience for kids,” she said. “It teaches them things that too often parents assume the kids know. It just brings everything out on the surface so the children will know what to do if they ever have a fire.”