By DAVID PEPIN
While class was ending for most East Greenwich kids last week, its youngest students received their first important lesson at school.
Safety Town, a 22-year-old program organized by the Barbara M. Tufts Cooperative Preschool and designed to teach young students the basics of personal safety, brought 48 children to Meadowbrook Farms School for five days of fun and activities to make them more aware of the new world about to unfold around them, and the dangers that sometimes lurk in it.
Denise Parris, co-director of the program with Kate Goldman, said the programâ€™s longevity, and the commitment of middle and high school students who serve as aides, has helped sustain the program so long.
â€śI think itâ€™s the interactivity between the teens who participate and the kids. The teens remember having gone through the program themselves, and some of the parents may have, too,â€ť Parris said.
The program has generated participation from the East Greenwich Police Department, East Greenwich Fire District, Kent County YMCA and other community institutions hoping to extend their lessons on public safety to some of the townâ€™s youngest residents.
Students had a chance to ride in a police car when Sgt. John Carter and Officer Chris Rafferty gave a talk on gun safety and police uniforms. They also got to see a fire truck and meet some firefighters when Fire Marshal Stephen Hughes came to visit.
Animal Control Officer Renee Young also gave advice on approaching dogs and what to do when they see an injured animal.
Joanne Lewis and Bill Gordan, sports medicine doctors, talked about how kids can protect their teeth during sports activities, and gave them backpacks, water bottles and custom-made mouthpieces. YMCA staff also offered advice on water safety.
First Student Transportation, school bus contractor, took the kids for a ride and told them the basic rules of riding a school bus. Dianna Dias from Rhode Island AAA gave a presentation on car seats, seat belts, bicycle helmets and how to cross the street safely, and Operation Lifesaver also offered tips on train safety.
Finally, David Gorretoy from Hongâ€™s Tae Kwon Do in North Kingstown gave a talk on self-defense and bullying, and psychotherapist Nick Jackson spoke to the children about personal safety.
The students also went home with backpacks designed to reinforce the lessons they learned last week, and also with contact information from the youth group leaders offering their services as babysitters,
â€śThey have coupons, coloring books, and all kinds of information,â€ť Parris said.