By Brittany Whitley
Forty Morgan County Primary School second graders hosted a healthy Cracker Barrel catered luncheon for the Morgan County Fire Rescue (MCFR) firefighters last Wednesday at noon.
Students under the teaching of Gena Christian, Joanne Roberts, Aubrey Nation, and Paraprofessional Laura Sidwell drew pictures and wrote letters of appreciation and encouragement to the firemen as well as donated almost two pick-up trucks full of canned goods, protein bars, beans, rice, whole grains, and Coco Puffs (for kicks) to MCFR.
Although all the firemen and volunteers from MCFR were not able to make it due to conflicting schedules, the four firemen who were present enjoyed a healthy meal from Cracker Barrell and read each of the students’ letters aloud with appreciation.
The event is a product of the school’s PBL (Project Based Learning) program which is provides multisensory learning opportunities for the children and KASH (Knowledge Attitude Skills and Habits) initiative where they are better informed and prepared professionally for future careers.
With PBL the students are given a driving question that they are encouraged to find a practical solution for with their own critical thinking skills.
For Mrs. Roberts, thinking of a question that would give the students a chance to fill a need, learn about a profession, and bring awareness to a bigger problem was relatively easy. Because it was personal.
Being the wife of a firefighter exposed her to the noble realities and harsh truths of the profession.
“They don’t get enough positive public attention,” Mrs. Roberts expressed. “…I mean they’re really giving up a part of their future because they’re getting all of this unhealthy stuff inside of them all the time.”
Firemen are six times more likely to develop cancer than the average person and at least 86 percent of firemen experience heart related illnesses. Firemen often times lose their hearing from the blasting truck sirens and suffer from sleep apnea as a result of breathing in harmful toxins.
Because of this real and pressing issue, Mrs. Roberts encouraged her kids to get the ball rolling on the important question: how do we keep firefighters healthy so they can keep us safe?
Beginning in October during Nation Fire Safety Month, the children watched informal videos on the physical agility tests firemen undergo, learned about how all firemen give back to the community through their own donations, how much weight firemen carry through live presentations, and what it means to eat healthy. This curriculum and its associating activities carried throughout the month of November, recognized for Cancer Awareness for Firefighters until the day of the lunch.
“… It makes the kids more aware – say if there is a fire at one of their houses, they are usually scared when they come in with their uniforms because they are all dressed up with their masks on,” Mrs. Roberts stated. “Now they would not be so scared if they were around them… I just think it brings more appreciation to people who are not appreciated – unfortunately, that’s police, firemen, and teachers – we don’t get paid well and they are sacrificing their lives to come save us.”
“Honored to be part of the project and felt very appreciated by the students,” 10-year Firefighter Josh Tinseth said.
Cory Eaton, three-year firefighter, shared words of gratitude, “The event the primary school put on was wonderful. It’s great to see the community caring about their first responders and helping to take care of them.”
“Grateful that MCFR was selected to be the recipient of the donations collected by the students and that these young people took the project to heart and really applied themselves to learning about the importance of firefighters health and fitness,” said MCFR Fire Chief Jeff Stone, who has served over 25 years of firefighting. “The many donations will ensure that our firefighters will eat well for a long while.”
“Loved the opportunity to interact with the students and have lunch with them and so enjoyed reading the letters and seeing the pictures the students did for the firefighters,” Administrative Assist and 21 Volunteer Firefighter Cindy Williams shared. “The sincerity of the words and the well wishes for the firefighters’ safety and wellbeing were very thoughtful. Glad our department was asked to be a part of the project.”
“As firefighters, our health and fitness isn’t just about us,” said MCFR Battalion Chief Daniel Pritchett. “It’s about those we serve. To have the students and staff support us this way really puts it into perspective.”