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Children learn how to stay safe through NMSU Extension program

HOBBS, N.M. - What vital information does a child - or an adult - need to know when dialing 9-1-1? Using just your eyes, can you tell the difference between Clorox and lemonade? What do you do if you are home alone and a stranger knocks on your front door?



A third-grade student tries to determine which container holds a safe food product and which one holds a harmful household chemical at the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Days in Hobbs. (NMSU photo by Audry Olmsted)

These and many other questions were answered recently for third-grade students in Lea County when they attended the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Days in Hobbs. The event was a cooperative effort between New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service and the Progressive Agriculture Foundation.

The mission of the safety days is to make life safer and healthier for all children through education and training.

"It is important to teach children about safety because there are so many dangers nowadays," said Shannon Franklin, Extension 4-H agent and home economist for Lea County. "This program is about teaching kids how to be safe and giving them some knowledge they can take with them from attending."

Approximately 1,100 students attended the event in Hobbs this year over the course of two days.

Through the program, children learn safety lessons that can keep them and others safe while at home or on a farm or ranch. Many accidents can be prevented if safety precautions are followed. The safety days not only increase students' awareness of safety procedures, they enhance the safety awareness of the community as well.

Franklin said Lea County does not have a large farming community, which is why the program held in Hobbs catered more toward latchkey children who are frequently home alone.

Besides learning how to responsibly dial 9-1-1, handle strangers at their door, and identify the differences between safe foods and the harmful household chemicals they may resemble, students learned about germs, bicycle and helmet safety, water safety, water conservation and soil erosion, methamphetamine awareness, and electrical safety.

During the safety days, different stations teach participants about specific topics and provide age-appropriate, hands-on activities. Students are divided into small groups, which allows for greater participation.

Progressive Agriculture Safety Days is geared toward children between third- and fifth-grade.

"The curriculum is really targeted to that age level," Franklin said. "At that age, they are like little sponges, soaking everything up."

Children and teachers find the safety days to be a positive learning experience.

"This is a wonderful program because it shows the children all the different ways to be safe, things they should be cautious of, things they need to be aware of," said Pam Tinley, who teaches third grade at Stone Elementary.

Tinley said she and other teachers who bring their students to the event incorporate what the children have learned back in the classroom through discussion and other activities.

The national sponsors for the event were Bunge, John Deere, Agrium, Toyota, Farm Credit, Pioneer, Monsanto and ConocoPhillips. The local sponsors were LEACO Rural Telephone Company, LES-URENCO in Eunice, Chevron Pipeline and the J. F. Maddox Foundation.

Safety days are held in towns across eastern New Mexico and reach more than 5,000 students and teachers annually. The topics presented at each location vary to fit the needs of the area.

"Safety is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart," Franklin said. "Even if we help only one child to do the right thing, at least that is one child we have protected."