CNJ Staff Photo: Liliana Castillo Clovis firefighter Sheryl Chavez answers questions from Kendra Aucutt’s kindergarten class at Zia Elementary School after a presentation from the fire department about fire safety.
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Their hands clasped, two little girls skipped and twirled beside their classmates chanting, “Stop-drop-and-roll,” while their teacher Kendra Aucutt smiled and chuckled.
“They love it. They’re going to be talking about crawling through the smoke for a while,” she said. “They were so excited to come see this.”
Aucutt’s 19 kindergartners were the last Zia Elementary class to have a fire safety lesson Thursday with the Clovis Fire Department.
October brings fire safety lessons to elementary schools across the nation and Aucutt said the visit from the fire department gave her children a fun but important lesson to complement what they were studying.
“This is neat because we’re doing fire safety already. It’s something we incorporate into our lessons,” she said.
Firefighter Chad Healer said the department took a different approach to teaching fire safety this school year, opting to visit with each kindergarten through second grade class in Clovis private and public schools instead of doing mass school assemblies.
The smaller groups help get the message through better, Healer said.
“This way we can talk straight to them. You’re talking directly to the kids instead of talking to a crowd with them laughing and giggling,” he said.
“Here in the next couple of years we will have visited every kid (in Clovis) twice.”
And the department chose to reach out to the youngest students because, “We try to get them while they’re sponges,” firefighter Sheryl Chavez said.
As a practice drill, artificial smoke was pumped into a fifth-wheeler set up as a mock home, and the students were instructed how to crawl out.
Fire safety lessons are timed with the onset of cold weather, a good time to remind children of stove and heater safety, Healer said.
Students also learn about smoke detectors, how to map out family escape plans, and are encouraged to talk to their families about their fire escape plan.
Students are also asked if they have smoke detectors at home. If not, the fire department will install up to two free of charge — a service the department offers the whole community, Healer said.
Class presentations will continue next week as the fire department finishes its visits to local schools, Healer said.