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Fifth graders attend fun day of safety lessons
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Kansas Highway Patrol Second Lt. Stephen Billinger talks to fifth graders about seat belt laws, Wednesday during the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, cosponsored by Central Prairie RC&D, at Veterans Memorial Park in Great Bend. Kids enjoyed a fun day of safety lessons. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Things did not go well Wednesday for guys named Ed. As hundreds of fifth graders looked on in Veterans Memorial Park, ED – short for Electrical Dummy – touched a live power line and was zapped by electricity. Flames burst from the lines, cooking the hot dog that served as the plastic and wire figure’s heart.
Moments later, another dummy named Ed sat in a Kansas Highway Patrol rollover simulator without wearing a seat belt. When the cab of the specially equipped truck rotated onto its top, the dummy was thrown from the window and landed under the vehicle.
While dummies are prone to being zapped, tossed and crushed, smart humans can avoid the same fate, said LaVeta Miller, program manager at Central Prairie Recourse Conservation & Development. That organization helped sponsor the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day – a fun day of safety talks and object lessons aimed at kids. As Miller learned from one of the speakers Wednesday, at any given time U.S. emergency rooms have enough victims of preventable accidents in them to match the population of Great Bend – over 15,000.
The Progressive Agriculture Safety Day program was started by The Progressive Farmer magazine in 1995 to provide safety training to children. They don’t have to live on a farm to benefit from the lessons taught Wednesday, Miller said. About 300 students from the Great Bend and Pawnee Heights school districts attended, visiting a dozen stations set up in the park. There were lessons on bicycle and all-terrain vehicle safety, first aid, sun exposure, fire arms and knife safety, weather and storm safety, railroad safety and more, presented with the help of the American Legion Post 180, City of Great Bend, Great Bend High School students and Central Prairie RC&D, plus many other sponsors.
Each student received a T-shirt and a bag of information. “This is something they could share at home or in the classroom,” Miller said.
Leonard Kaiser from The Center for Counseling and Consultation talked about social precautions, from stranger danger to cyber-bullying and using caution on Internet sites such as Facebook. A youth is supposed to be at least 13 years old to be on Facebook, he said, but 70 percent of the fifth graders he talked to indicated they use the social network site, even though most are about 11 years old.
“They’re so ready to give information about themselves,” Kaiser said. But if an 11-year-old can lie about his age to create a presence on Facebook, a predator can also lie while fishing for clues about where the student lives. “I’m challenging them to keep their private information private,” Kaiser said. He also suggests parents move computers out of kids’ bedrooms and put them in a part of the house that anyone can walk through at any time.
Lt. Stephen Billinger from the Kansas Highway Patrol operated the rollover simulator – an actual pickup cab that can flip with the touch of a button. It’s against the law to ride in a vehicle without a seat belt, Billinger told the students – but life is full of rules and they might think it’s not important. Ed the dummy is designed to show why it’s a good idea. Rollover accidents are common in Kansas, and anyone not wearing a seat belt when one happens could come through a window or windshield and be run over by the vehicle.
Fifth graders Taylor Bisterfeldt and Caden Nokleby from Park Elementary School were among the watching students who agreed it’s a good idea to buckle up.
“Always put your seat belt on,” Nokleby said when asked what he’d learned Wednesday.
Lincoln fifth graders Michael Espinosa and Jacob Lane also said the lessons would make them think about safety issues, whether they’re having fun or performing chores.
“I’ve learned that if you ever ride a four-wheeler, you want to be careful and read the warning labels,” Espinosa said.
“You need to have goggles when you’re ‘weed-eating,’” Lane said. “And wear pants, not shorts.”