Being a rural school, Mecca Glen is striving to educate students on the dangers of farms, especially with harvest — the most dangerous season on a farm — well underway.
On Sept. 19, students in kindergarten to Grade 6 sat through interactive presentations with Carol Senz, instructor with West Central Farm Safety Centre, which were designed to hold the students’ attention and reinforce the information presented to them.
“It’s a great program for the kids, that’s for sure,” said principal Al Libby. “Most of the kids that come to this school live on farms. It’s very significant to them.”
However, the program is geared toward all children. Senz finds it’s the rural town youths are the ones acting beyond their abilities when in the country.
This year the theme of the program was harvest safety and students were reminded that, although it’s their home, farms are also places of operations and business, and they’re dangerous. Farms aren’t playgrounds.
The West Central Farm Safety Centre school programs look to teach students safety concepts by talking about actual risks in real life situations they’ll face on a farm.
In the 2011/2012 academic school year, 64,920 students across Alberta received “safety smarts” training through the program. “We want to eliminate farm-related accidents and deaths in Alberta,” said Senz.
General topics, such as ATV and recreational safety were also discussed, including protective gear and passenger safety; if a machine such as a quad is designed for only one rider, then only one should be using it.
“You live on farms, you have to live with these rules every day to keep you safe,” said Senz.
“You’re old enough now that maybe you don’t have that adult supervision anymore and it’s really up to you to keep you safe,” she told the grades 4 and 5 students.
As a precaution to accompany their growing freedom, Senz stressed students create a list of emergency numbers such as 911, the poison control number, the veterinary clinic’s number, parents’ work and cell numbers as well as land location and directions.
Senz says it’s important for those who live on a farm to have this information. “They have to keep themselves safe but they’re also responsible for cousins and friends that visit.”
Libby says farm safety presentations are a good example of how the school is working to provide more than just an academic education. “The school is a powerful place to teach life skills, not just the Alberta curriculum.”
It’s usually an education only elementary students actively partake in. Libby says by junior high it’s thought students have absorbed all the information about farm safety they’re going to and the programs aren’t geared for them anymore.
From kindergarten to Grade 3 Senz focuses on presenting the dangers and hazards to the students. “When they get to (Grade) 4, 5, 6 I really want to make them understand. It’s fulfilling to me to realize how aware they are at that age.”
“You don’t often hear an older child getting hurt or killed on the farms as often as a younger child. They’re the prime target audience,” said Libby.
Recently, a Grade 1 student of the school was involved in a farm accident involving a grain conveyer belt and his arm was badly damaged. “It really rattled us, it rattled his family, it rattled the whole community,” said Libby.
“Hazards aren’t something that happen far, far away in other places, they happen here,” said Senz.
This isn’t the first time Mecca Glen has dealt with students involved in farm accidents and Libby wants the school and staff to be prepared to go beyond the traditional role of the school to educate the students on farm safety.
“These kids are well versed in farm life and they have a different set of knowledge and skills than their counterparts in towns or cities. The need for this type of presentation in this school is very, very high,” said Libby.
“These kinds of presentations are very important to the staff and school community because unfortunately it’s a tragedy we have to deal with,” he added.