Kids learn about home-alone safety during MEA break

Learning outside of school

Wyatt Schwab (right) helps Bennett Wenninger (left) with the material as they learn about home alone safety. The class started with a questionnaire about students experiences with being home alone.

NEW ULM — Students in grades three and above got to learn how to be safe when they’re home alone at the Washington Learning Center on Thursday.

The class was an hour and thirty-minute lesson on how to be safe at home when no one else is there. It covered several topics, including fire safety, phone safety, and what to tell 911 if they need to be called. Teacher Kirsten Dean also covered ways to keep yourself calm when home alone. One thing she advised against doing is watching or doing anything scary.

“I got my bowl of popcorn ready,” Dean said. “I’m sitting on the couch and I’m watching my scary movie. All of a sudden, I heard this noise like somebody was trying to get in my back door. I turned every light on in the house. It was like a Christmas tree. I’m double-checking the windows and the doors. I’m listening to see if I can hear anybody. I don’t hear anything. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m done with scary.’ [The next morning] I’m telling [my family] how scared I was there and I hear the noise again. I said what the heck is that? Guess what it was? We had gotten a brand new refrigerator freezer with an automatic ice maker in it. When the ice was dumped into the bucket, it sounded like somebody was trying to get into my house.”

Question and answer was an important part of the session, ensuring kids understood what was being taught and clarifying misunderstandings. Other times, kids would ask humorous questions. One kid said his bedroom is on the second floor. He asked if he should jump off of his balcony in the event of a fire, which drew laughter from the other students. Dean told them to crawl down the stairs feet first if there’s a fire and they’re on the second floor.

The event was made possible by the annual break from school kids get due to the MEA conference. Dean said the break was a welcome opportunity.

Seven students, each in third grade or above, have their heads facing forward as they listen to teacher Kirsten Dean teach them about home alone safety. Dean said class size varies between two and 20 kids per session.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s an awesome time to do classes with kids.”

Dean has been doing the program for several years, usually three to four times a year. Dean said the program came about from parent concerns about home safety.

“Questions from parents on a little bit of guidance and reassurance,” she said. “Sometimes it helps for somebody other than parents to say the same things and the kids get it. It’s not just mom and dad saying it.”

While the program has been going for a long time, Dean said the only major changes come when there are new problems to confront regarding home alone safety.

As cell phones have become the norm, etiquette surrounding these has been implemented to make sure kids don’t answer the phone for strangers. Over the years, the program has been reinforced by positive parent feedback.

“I’ve run into families after kids have gone through the class,” Dean said. “They let me know it was a nice thing. The kids talk about it and they share when they’re concerned and afraid in their home alone. They share those things and are not apprehensive to have conversations.”

Tucker Uzig is a fourth grader who attended the program. He said the program did a good job of teaching him what to do when he is home alone. An important piece he learned was knowing what devices he and his family have to call or text them. His favorite part of the day was the gifts the kids were given at the end. Each kid received a certificate of completion, a packet of information to take home, a pen, a little cup of Play-Doh, and a finger trap.

Uzig said he enjoyed the program more than he would a typical school day, and now he feels safer being home alone.

For parents interested in future versions of the program, Dean said the program is open to include anything parents find important for their kids to know about being home alone.

“If there is a concern parents have they would like me to discuss, I’m very open,” she said. “If there’s community concerns they would like me to add to it. I could do that.”


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