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Trying to be safe at Safety Town

Safety Town participants walk and pedal through a session on pedestrian and traffic safety on the MacArthur School playground June 26.

Safety Town participants walk and pedal through a session on pedestrian and traffic safety on the MacArthur School playground June 26. Photo By C.T. Kruger

July 31, 2012

"If only you could walk a mile in my shoes." We've all read it, thought it, and most likely said it, but how many of us have actually tried it?

Every day, each of us wakes up and tackles the day. Some of us head to an air-conditioned offices and are inundated with phone call after phone call. Others don a uniform and ready themselves to help those in need.

Though it would be impossible for me to walk a mile in everyone's shoes, I am bringing the adage to life. From scraping wax to farming, I am taking myself out of my comfort zone and being put to work like never before at businesses around Germantown and Menomonee Falls.

Like all Tuesdays before, I thought making my deadline on June 26 would be my biggest challenge. Spending the afternoon with more than 20 children was an afterthought.

On that summer day, I stepped into the shoes of a camp adviser during Safety Town. Put on by the Germantown Parks and Recreation Department, this is a two-hour class that runs for two weeks and teaches children entering kindergarten and first grade about safety. I thought acting as an adviser and working with kids would be a nice break spent outside.

I was wrong.

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The class at McArthur Elementary was filled with lessons, singing, crafts and kids driving souped-up bicycles bumper to bumper. The kids had more energy in that two-hour class than I have in a week's time. Kelly Baran and Missy Schmidt, the leaders of the class, really are miracle workers. The children hung on their every word. They looked at me like I was crazy.

The challenge working at Safety Town was twofold: avoid being hit by an oncoming Kett Car - a fancy bike the kids get to use during the week - and help the children learn about safety.

Seeing as I was a newcomer, the latter proved to be the most challenging.

I thought I would have an easier time asking some of the kids about safety if I bonded with them first. I tried to do this during class down time when my group was meant to be tested on Monday's lessons, color and learn a new song.

As I helped them make a stop light out of construction paper, I attempted to grill one of the boys in the group on bike safety. This was short lived as we quickly got off topic talking about superheroes. Luckily, I just saw "Avengers" and he was having a super hero party for his birthday. I was finally getting somewhere.

This feeling was short lived. I stopped asking the kids safety questions due to my "Avengers" tangent when one of the girl's in the group chimed in and reminded me that's why we were all there. Good thing she was paying attention.

That attention to safety changed dramatically as the class moved outside.

As part of Safety Town, half of the children ride around on Kett Cars in a child-sized city, while the other half act as pedestrians. This teaches them road and pedestrian safety. I immediately lost my group, as well as control over them.

My job was to keep the kids steering in the right direction, make sure they were following safety rules and act as a roadblock for them to maneuver around. It was probably the most useful I felt all day, standing in the corner of the bike route so the children had to steer around me. Turns out I make a better traffic cone than camp adviser.

Kudos to Kelly and Missy for being able to successfully teach the children about all aspects of safety. It takes extreme patience, a good spirit and more energy than I could muster, and I was only there for a couple of hours.

Editor's note: We had hoped to launch this series after Danielle completed a few more In Your Shoes; unfortunately, she broke her ankle in several places and will be out of commission for a while. While she recovers, readers are encouraged to send suggestions for jobs Danielle can do to dswitalski@cninow.com or snord@cninow.com.

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