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Web Site Enhances Successful Safety Curriculum

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While the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is especially visible during Fire Prevention Week in October, the NFPA works all year to promote safety. Former NFPA official Meri-K Appy talked about Risk Watch, NFPA's "anytime" injury-prevention program for schools. Included: Links to the Risk Watch Web site and other safety resources.

In 2001, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) launched Risk Watch, a companion Web site to its injury-prevention curriculum for students in preschool through eighth grade. Former NFPA vice president of public education Meri-K Appy talked to Education World about how teachers can use the curriculum and the Web site.

ImageEducation World: Why did NFPA decide to develop lessons on other injury risks, besides those caused by fire?

Meri-K Appy: As a nonprofit membership association with more than 75,000 members worldwide, NFPA is proud of the role it has played in promoting safety education in local communities. About 25 years ago, we developed Learn Not to Burn, the first comprehensive fire safety curriculum for schools. Hundreds of lives were saved as a direct result of Learn Not to Burn, most of them children under the age of 12.

Today, most firefighters respond to much more than fires; they're also first on the scene in medical emergencies, such as car crashes, drownings, falls, poisonings, and so on. Firefighters are committed to keeping people in their communities safe from all kinds of preventable injuries. Feedback from school systems also indicated a preference for a more holistic approach to safety.

Those factors prompted NFPA to develop Risk Watch, a curriculum designed to help children and families create safer homes and communities. That effort is very important because each year unintentional injuries kill and disable more children than kidnappings, drugs, and disease combined -- making unintentional injuries the number-one health risk facing school-age children. In an effort to make their curriculum information accessible to all teachers, safety advocates, parents, and children, NFPA launched the Risk Watch Web site.

EW: Which grade levels use the program most?

Appy: Risk Watch is a sequential, comprehensive program of instruction that builds on prior knowledge about injury prevention. Because this allows for an increasing level of comprehension and complexity, we recommend using the entire curriculum from preschool through eighth grade. Each module can be used independently, however, so a school system can devise an implementation plan that makes the most sense for its community. Risk Watch is being successfully implemented at all grade levels; the most popular modules so far have been Pre-K-K, Grades 1-2, and Grades 3-4.

EW: What type of content is most effective in teaching safety to youngsters?

Appy: NFPA believes the best way to teach kids about safety is through positive, non-threatening, developmentally appropriate information, presented in a way that gives kids a chance to apply the new skills and knowledge to their daily lives. By encouraging classroom teachers to link with such local safety advocates as firefighters, police officers, and health professionals, the program offers children the benefit of positive adult role models and a real-world perspective -- which bring the lessons alive.

EW: Have teachers shared any anecdotes about children who have applied the lessons?

Appy: NFPA asks teachers and local safety advocates to tell us about children who put their Risk Watch skills into action in a real emergency. We've been inspired by the anecdotes that have already been documented, many of which can be found at Risk Watch Saves!

EW: How do you know whether the program is effective?

Appy: In 1998, NFPA contracted with an external evaluation firm to conduct a three-year analysis of the impact of Risk Watch on children's knowledge of the safety behaviors covered in the curriculum. The outcomes for both the first and second years of the program are encouraging. In all curriculum modules tested, statistically significant gains were recorded between Risk Watch students' pre-tests and post-tests -- gains that were greater than those of comparison groups. According to the evaluation firm, "Risk Watch undoubtedly increases the safety-related knowledge of students. When these empirical results are combined with teachers' positive response to the materials, one can be optimistic about the eventual effectiveness of the curriculum."

This e-interview with Meri-K Appy is part of the Education World weekly Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.


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