‘Risk Watch’ now in fourth year

Safety continues to be a message being promoted in district schools this fall as students in kindergarten to Grade 8 are learning from the “Risk Watch” program first established here four years ago.
“For 2003-004, ‘Risk Watch’ is going to be taught to 86 classes by 47 teachers,” said “Risk Watch” co-ordinator Greg Allan, who also is a firefighter with the Fort Frances Fire Department.
“It’s always been in all the schools, and last year was our best year ever for participation with a huge numbers of teachers involved,” he added.
“But it’s down a little from last year, with all but two schools involved,” Allan said. “The biggest reason is the books [which contain information on the safety education units] are the same.
“The teachers want something different, and we’re going to give it to them.”
Allan also said he’s looking into getting a French Immersion version of the “Risk Watch” program lined up, as well as student workbooks, which will offer comprehension exercises.
The latter currently exist for U.S. schools, and are being re-formatted in accordance with the Public Safety Council and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.
Allan noted some teachers have pointed out students are getting taught the same information throughout their elementary school career, as there are only five modules to be spread over nine grades (SK-8).
He said the “Risk Watch” program usually starts being incorporated into the classroom around this time of the year, and that he’s trying to promote spreading out the modules this time around.
“For instance, for Grades 5 and 6, be aggressive with a module in Grade 5, be really in-depth with it, and then just do an overview of that information in Grade 6 as a sort of refresher,” he remarked.
“Risk Watch” first was introduced in the district (also a first for the province) as a pilot program in 1999-2000, when 28 teachers agreed to participate.
After garnering great reviews from teachers, parents, and both the public and separate school boards, the program took off the next year—and hasn’t slowed down since.
“Risk Watch” targets the eight leading causes of injury to children, including fires and burns; motor vehicle crashes; choking, suffocation, and strangulation; poisoning; falls; firearms accidents; water hazards; and bike and pedestrian hazards.
Information is incorporated into weekly lesson slots as part of students’ regular health class time.
While the instruction mainly is carried out by teachers, with the aid of learning materials, local firefighters occasionally will be appear at district schools to offer their expertise, as well.
The students’ knowledge then is tracked with tests administered before and after the course.
“Risk Watch” is a co-operative effort between the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition, Fort Frances Ambulance Service, Atikokan Police Service, Northwestern Health Unit, OPP, and various school councils.
Resource materials are sponsored by several district businesses and service clubs.
(Fort Frances Times)