By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
POLAND -- Several dozen kindergarten-aged youngsters took their first uneasy steps away from the comfort of mom and dad to learn a few safety tips from the experts and prepare for a lifetime of learning.
The Poland Safety Village program, now in its 13th year, gives those pupils who are ready to enter kindergarten the opportunity to get acquainted with emergency personnel and learn proper methods of crossing streets, road rules and etiquette when riding and waiting for a school bus. The program took place Monday and Tuesday.
Coordinator and PTA president Tina Thompson said, with the school year set to begin Sept. 4, the program is designed to remove any anxiety the children may experience as a result of being away from their parents for what is, in most cases, the first time.
How it went: Thompson said most of the kids jumped right in without reservation, but some refused to wear the safety village T-shirt and started crying when their parents turned to leave. She said it is better to see apprehension and even a few tears now rather than later.
"If they can cry here that is a lot better than going to school on the first day and crying there," said Thompson. "We had some cry the first day, but none the second, so it works out fairly well."
According to Thompson, some parents also find it difficult to let the little ones spread their wings. She said one mother could not bear leaving her child and stayed for the entire program.
The children were divided into five groups, each consisting of about 20 kids. The groups, guided by several PTA volunteers, then alternately went through a series of five safety stations.
Thompson said one of the more urgent issues for kindergarten pupils is learning how to behave on a school bus and while waiting at a bus stop. On the first day, the children were given the rules of bus behavior. By the second day they were ready to take their first bus ride and perform a mock emergency evacuation.
Safety Village: At another station, village police officers used buildings resembling those in the village and painted streets on the parking lot pavement to teach the children rules of the road and how to properly cross streets.
The pupils used bicycles as vehicles and navigated through the makeshift village following the instruction of officers explaining when to stop and how to obey traffic signs.
Village Police Chief Russell Beatty said the interaction with officers serves a second purpose.
"This is nice because now these kids will stop and realize that, 'hey these guys [officers] are human,' " he said.
Clemente Ambulance Service, with the help of a small remote-controlled replica of a full-sized ambulance truck, explained to the kids the role of paramedics in emergency situations. The pupils were also shown the inside of an ambulance truck.
Township police officers Tom Johnson and Lucinda Caparso were on hand with McGruff the crime dog and a lesson about when to call 911 and the importance of not talking to strangers. The kids also learned why creating a secret password with their parents is important.