This February, more than 150 kindergartners at P.H. Miller School in Plano, IL took part in “Prepare with Pedro,” an American Red Cross program established to teach children about safety in a fun and engaging way.
With disasters on the rise, more people and households are being affected every day, and kids are among the most vulnerable during and after a disaster, which is where Prepare with Pedro comes in. Developed by the Red Cross, Prepare with Pedro is a whole curriculum series dedicated to helping children understand what to do in emergency situations.
Laurel Mateyka, P.H. Miller School’s principal, and Amy Griffing, a S.T.E.M. teacher at the school, welcomed the American Red Cross into their classrooms to introduce children to the Prepare with Pedro fire safety storybook. The storybook is a fun new way for young children to learn about fire safety as Pedro learns about how to stay safe during home fires from his friend, Mia. The storybook ensures that children understand basic fire safety tips, such as the sound a smoke alarm makes, when to test smoke alarms, how to get out safely during a fire, and how to develop a fire escape plan. Children also learn how to cope with the stress that emergencies can cause and are encouraged to continue to learning with their families afterwards as each student receives their very own copy of the storybook!
Prepare with Pedro answered many students’ questions. The kindergarten students spent several weeks talking about how to prepare for different types of weather. Throughout the unit, students brought up questions about fire. They wanted to know more about fire and how to prepare.
“When my principal, Laurel Mateyka, told me about the Red Cross Program, Prepare with Pedro, it seemed like a perfect way to address students’ lingering questions,” Griffing said. “Pedro answered many questions about what to do in an emergency without scaring the students.”
After hearing the Preparing with Pedro story, students understood what to do in a fire emergency. The presentation cleared up several misconceptions about what to do in a fire drill.
Before the story, several students thought the beeping sound the alarm made was a signal for a lock down drill. Some students thought they should hide in the basement.
Pedro taught students not to hide when a fire alarm goes off, but to quickly “get low and go.” After the story with Pedro, students understood smoke detectors also tell you to get out of a house and not just school buildings.
“Now that students have heard and understood this message, I can feel more comfortable knowing that my students can take care of themselves in a fire emergency,” Griffing said.
The American Red Cross’ visit marks the first time the program has been offered in Kendall County making it a great opportunity for students at P.H. Miller School. Virginia Hopley of Safe Families AmeriCorps and Kelley Kudulis, a Red Cross volunteer, presented Pedro to the excited classrooms of children.
Mateyka has been working on a community early intervention program that is wholistic, incorporating literacy and public health, making Prepare with Pedro a great fit.
“We pushed for Pedro to be at the school because all students go home with a copy of the storybook and are encouraged to read it with their grown-ups, which helps foster literacy development,” Jeremiah La Plante, American Red Cross disaster program specialist, said.
In addition to the message about fire safety, the American Red Cross encouraged reading skills to the kindergarten students.
Some of the students that took part in the program could not write their name, and many could not read at all. The program presenters encouraged students to try their best when reading.
“During the presentation, Pedro taught students a smoke alarm says ‘beep, beep, beep’ At the end of the presentation, Kelly, Jeremiah and Virginia challenged students to find these words in their new storybook,” Griffing said. “Students were so proud and excited to read the words ‘beep, beep, beep’ on their own.”
The students described the Pedro mascot as friendly and cute, and it will not be the last time he will be visiting P.H. Miller School students.
“We’ve been invited back next school year to teach fire safety and possibly the upcoming tornado safety storybook,” La Plante said.
According to Griffing, students shared their excitement and loved receiving their own Pedro book to take home to share their safety knowledge to friends and family.
“One student said, ‘I am going to have to read this book to my friend! She doesn’t have a smoke alarm at home,’” Griffing said. “It was great for me to see this student excited to read about fire safety and concerned about her friend.”
Interested in learning more about “Prepare with Pedro” or having a presentation at your school? Contact us by emailing Brian at Brian.Nestler@redcross.org.
Written by Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross Communications Volunteer Jasminne Hernandez.