Why Firefighters and Third Graders Make Great Partners
What do firefighters and third graders have in common? Together, they can be the key to fire safety education that will last a lifetime.
Kids this age enjoy classroom visits from firefighters, and are receptive to safety messages they can teach. Of course, those message need to be age appropriate. At this age, children use “concrete” thinking, and can’t really grasp abstract concepts of “what could happen if...” Their understanding of how things work is based on their own, usually limited, experience and they just can’t anticipate events they haven’t experienced.
For example, In our survey of elementary school children, all understood that one match could burn up a piece of paper. But when asked if a match could burn up a house, only three out of five children between the ages of 7 and 11 believed it could. While they could understand the simple cause and effect of a small flame touching paper, they couldn’t anticipate a chain of events leading to a whole house in flames.
It is only when children are about 12 years old that they are cognitively able to anticipate the whole range of possible outcomes of an event—both outcomes they have experienced and those they have not. But by this pre-adolescent age they can already be more cynical, less willing to engage with authority figures, and less receptive to safety education. By engaging third graders, who are more receptive, firefighters can teach safety messages that survive the transition to adolescence.
So, what can third graders learn? In Rochester, NY, the Rochester Fire Department is working with Fireproof Children to bring classroom education to third graders. The program that Fireproof Children developed for them includes the following age-appropriate lessons:
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