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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Students Learn About Emergency Preparedness with The Pillowcase Project

By Linda Julich

Students follow along in their workbooks at The
Pillowcase Project at Widefield School District.
Photo by Bill Fortune, Red Cross
It was a great opportunity for the American Red Cross to reach out to children in our community as volunteers visited two schools in the Widefield School District during January. Teams from the Southeastern Colorado Chapter brought The Pillowcase Project to 170 third, fourth and fifth graders at Talbot Elementary and 326 students in the same grades at French Elementary.

The Pillowcase Project is a partnership between Disney and the Red Cross. It teaches students how to prepare for, respond to and cope with emergencies of all sizes.

Gabe Leyba,10, reads his workbook during
The Pillowcase Project.
 Photo by Joe Coleman/Red Cross
The interactive training is presented in a “learn, practice, share” format with the hope that students will take home the message and share it with their families. “We know that when we teach children they take it home to their siblings and parents,” said Lead Instructor Dana Goldsmith. “The way we teach the information helps to implant preparedness into their hearts and minds so they can draw on it in times of emergency.” The children “took the pledge” to learn about emergencies today, practice what to do, and go home and share what they learned with their families.

They learned and practiced coping skills….breathing slowly and thinking of good things and they participated in an active discussion about hazards in their community such as home fires, wild fires and winter storms.

Volunteer Jennifer Marsh shows a
student how to "stay low and go".
Photo by Joe Coleman/Red Cross
Every 8 minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster somewhere in America, and most of these are home fires. The students were reminded about checking batteries in their home smoke detectors. The instructors reviewed how to think through what to do if there is smoke and fire in their home. They all practiced “get low and go” as they formed relay teams and practiced crawling low across the floor, testing the doorknobs for heat with the back of their hand and then deciding if they can leave through the door or window.

Each student was given a pillowcase that could serve as their emergency kit. Assembling their pillowcase emergency pack with things to keep warm, food and a bottle of water, and a comfort item ahead of time helps them think through what they should do in a winter storm to stay safe.

4th Graders hold their pillowcases at French Elementary
School in Widefield. Photo by Bill Fortune/Red Cross
The brightly colored markers came out for the last segment as they all decorated their pillowcases with things that were meaningful to them about the emergency. The Red Cross team was asked to autograph several of the children’s pillowcases which made us all feel appreciated. And a few special volunteers got hugs.

A big thanks to Assistant Principals at Talbot and French Elementary schools who promoted The Pillowcase Project and arranged time for the students to attend.

So, when Mom or Dad ask “what did you learn in school today?” we know 496 children from Widefield School District 3 will be showing off their pillowcases, making fire escape plans in their project workbook, and most importantly talking about how to be safe in their homes and during emergencies.

You can learn more about The Pillowcase Project and other resources for schools on our website.

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