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Junior Public Safety Academy brings public safety into the classroom

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: June 17, 2016


Photos Courtesy of Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Grand Haven Department of Public Safety got Mary A. White third graders in shape during their first Junior Public Safety Academy.

Photos Courtesy of Grand Haven Department of Public Safety
Grand Haven Department of Public Safety got Mary A. White third graders in shape during their first Junior Public Safety Academy.

— By Jennifer Foley, POJ Editor

Introducing young kids to public safety officers on an up close personal level is one of the missions of a new Junior Public Safety Academy program being held at local Grand Haven elementary schools.

Through interactive lessons in police and firefighter work, children at Mary A. White Elementary School in Grand Haven have a better understanding how police officers and firefighters protect the public. Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Officers conducted the five-day academy interacting with students for an hour each day the week of Feb. 15.

“As a Department, we wanted to reach out to the younger students within the City of

Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke reads the Junior Public Safety Academy Oath of Office to Mary A. White Elementary third graders.

Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke reads the Junior Public Safety Academy Oath of Office to Mary A. White Elementary third graders.

Grand Haven and elected to hold the Junior Public Safety Academy for all third graders,” said Grand Haven Det. Lt. Joe Boyle. “It’s great to interact with these kids at a young age and teach them a multitude of lessons on safety, which they can use for a lifetime.”

Several lesson plans from the Teaching, Educating and Mentoring (T.E.A.M.) program, designed by Michigan State Police, will be taught by a certified officer to kids in all public and private schools in the City. “These messages will reach six different third grade schools within Grand Haven city,” Boyle said of some 210 students. “We developed our own coloring/activity book, provided interactive lessons and videos, and designed t-shirts for all of our graduates.”

“We’re also using the assistance of Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP),” Boyle said of the LEEP Kids Fingerprinting program, which provides a CD Rom to parents with their child’s digital fingerprints, photographs and description in case they ever go missing. “We think that’s a good thing.”

Boyle said the T.E.A.M. program will be taught in the city to all sixth and eighth grade students. The Junior Public Safety Academy provides T.E.A.M. lessons for third graders to expand upon as they get older.

“The T.E.A.M. Program was developed by Michigan State Police with input from public and private school curriculum experts,” Boyle said. “The lesson plans are based on the Michigan Model for Health, which is implemented throughout the curriculum. In 2010, T.E.A.M. received the Most Outstanding Program Award from the National Criminal Justice Association.”

T.E.A.M. instruction sessions are typically 45 minutes to one hour and cover a variety of topics from Internet safety to fire safety. “One of the things we like about the T.E.A.M. Program is its flexibility to virtually all classroom settings,” Boyle said. “There are several different lesson plans available so you can choose which lesson to teach students. We have a great school system here in Grand Haven and they’re excited about the program. They want us teaching every lesson plan.”

“We’ve never had anything like that with so many police officers here and a course

Grand Haven School Resource Officer Eric Berends conducts a bicycle safety exercise.

Grand Haven School Resource Officer Eric Berends conducts a bicycle safety exercise.

taught for an hour a day,” said Mary A. White Elementary Principal Valerie Livingston. “We’ve done different spot things here and there, but this is the first time we had a comprehensive program with lesson plans and everything taught at the same time.”

The third graders learned about: 911 safety rules, stranger danger, seatbelt safety, gun awareness, drug awareness, traffic and bicycle safety, Internet safety, fire safety, senior citizen patrol and more. The children met K9s Max, who does police work, and Lady, a therapy dog. Interactive role-playing helped them learn by being involved.

“They had some hands on things. They set up a bicycle course in the gym to practice bicycle safety,” Livingston said. “Every day the kids said the pledge of allegiance then they reviewed what was done the day before and the officers introduced something new. It helped cement things for the kids.”

On the final day, the kids celebrated with a graduation pizza party where they received a Certificate of Completion, a Grand Haven Junior Public Safety Academy t-shirt, and their LEEP Kids Fingerprinting CDs.

“We had police officers and firefighters in uniform and the intent is to show the kids that behind the uniform we’re just like their mom and dad,” Boyle said. “We are normal people who care about their safety and the well being of the community. We have a reserve senior citizen patrol (RSVP) program and they were there. The kids will see young and old officers in uniform, black and white, male and female. (Public safety work) is just not geared toward one person, one gender, one race. We talk about the role police and fire play in the community.”

“The police were in uniform everyday and one day Officer (Eric) Berends dressed in street clothes so the kids could see he’s just a regular guy,” Livingston said. “I’m looking forward to having this again next year. The children went home and talked about it every night. One mother said her son didn’t change his shirt the entire week because he didn’t want to lose his (badge) sticker.”