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Learning to be Safe - Having Fun Along the Way


Safety Town completes another year of teaching youngsters to be safe in a variety of scenarios

Teaching kids how to recognize when a situation is not safe, particularly when they’re outside the home, is what Safety Town has become over the past seven years of its existence.

That fact was readily apparent to anyone who traveled to the Chehalem Armory Center in mid-August and witnessed firsthand the program, an effort of the Chehalem Park and Recreation District and the Newberg-Dundee Police Department.

After a brief introduction each morning, the 5- and 6-year-old children were divided into five areas: a 9-1-1 station on how to properly use the emergency system; a discussion on animal safety; a station where the students create arts and crafts; and a station on bus safety that includes riding around in a bright yellow behemoth.by: GARY ALLEN - Learning right-of-way right away - A pair of youths pilot their Kett self-powered cars through Safety Town and learn along the way the rules of the road and the proper respect for pedestrians.

By far the favorite station, however, is Safety Town itself, where students take a seat in a Kett self-pedaled car and drive through a miniature city complete with crosswalks, stop signs, buildings and other accoutrements designed to simulate being both a motorist and a pedestrian. Students don bike helmets, buckle their seatbelts and take to the open road, as nearby counselors remind them about stopping at crosswalks and stop signs. Other students serve as pedestrians to help the “motorists” be aware of the rules of the road.

Campers also receive handouts and newsletters to reinforce the lessons they learned that day. In addition to the topics covered in class, they cover personal safety, bicycle safety, fire safety, water safety, electrical safety and poison awareness.

More than 41 volunteers, most middle school-aged kids, serve as counselors and assistants during the weeklong camp, although some volunteers return year after year and are in high school or college by now, said Sarah Craft, recreation and education specialist for the CPRD. Last year, volunteers logged more than 900 hours during Safety Town, which lasts five days.

Successful completion of Safety Town was marked with a graduation ceremony on the last day of camp. Graduates had the opportunity to perform a skit or the Safety Town song in front of their families, shake hands with CPRD officials and be presented a certificate of completion by NDPD personnel. Each camper received a T-shirt and backpack as well.

The program is popular. Broken down into morning and afternoon sessions, the morning session is typically filled to capacity with 50 students, Craft said. The afternoon session is nearly reaching capacity as well.

In its first year of existence, Safety Town hosted 38 campers gathered for a single session. There were 51 campers in 2008, prompting officials to split the camp into two sessions in 2009. The camp tutored a record 89 students in 2010.

“Enrollment is slightly down from that this year,” Craft said, “but as I understand, so is enrollment (in the) Newberg School District for this age group.”

Aside from staff costs, the camp runs about $3,000 for materials and supplies each year. The CPRD and NDPD provide at least one staff person each to plan and run the camp. In addition, there were eight partial or full scholarships awarded to families who couldn’t afford the cost of the camp: $39 for early registration for in-district campers, $47 for those living outside the district.

In the past, Craft said, local businesses have made donations in order to keep the camp fees affordable. Call Craft at 503-519-5747 or NDPD Sgt. Gwen Johns at 503-554-7715 to learn about next year’s Safety Town.