I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Canadian Red Cross Be Safe! Program. The program is aimed at children 5 to 9 years of age and teaches them personal safety, covering sensitive topics such as sexual abuse. My school division purchased the kit, which includes detailed teacher lesson plans, posters and visuals for each lesson, parent and administration information and communication packages, Trusty the puppet, stickers, the program songs on CD, and a Your Body is Yours book. The resources are in both English and French. I shared the program information packages with my administrator and connected it to the Saskatchewan Grade 1 Health curriculum outcome: USC1.3 – analyze, with support, feelings and behaviours that are important for nurturing healthy relationships at school (and home). Then I took the online educator training to better familiarize myself with the program before sharing it with my kiddos. I sent a letter home with each child so that their parents could better support them if sensitive topics came up at home. I’m not going to lie, after I sent the letter home I felt anxious and wondered what the response would be and how the program would go but…
- The program is phenomenal!
- I received ZERO complaints and instead, praise from caregivers!
- I was supported by my administrators and division to teach this important topic.
- And, most importantly, my students loved the lessons and were able to retain the information!
Let it be known, this is not a sponsored post but it may start to seem that way as I rave about this program. I believe that everyone’s favorite part of the program is the puppet, Trusty. It has helped my kids engage and connect with the topics. Now having a puppet is all the rage in Gr. 1 and students are asking their parents for their own puppets!
The lesson progression is well-timed and has so far followed the thought process of my students. It starts with comfortable topics that may have already been discussed throughout the year but adds new information of interest. For instance, the program starts with the rights and responsibility of children by introducing learners to the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My students loved to learn that play and rest is their right! When asked to clean up at home, one of my students tried to use this newfound knowledge to her advantage, citing play as her right! Her mom and I had a laugh about this and then she thanked me for challenging her daughter with topics like this!
The program continues with lessons on safe and unsafe friends and adults. All of my students now understand that a safe adult has to be someone you know and trust. The program moves into body positivity and accepting diversity and my students loved reading People by Peter Spiers, focusing on the cultures and diversity that we have in our own classroom. Since teaching the lesson, I have overheard three students talking to others about why they are proud of their bodies and the cool things they can do!
These three lessons set the tone for the future lessons and help to gradually and naturally arrive at more serious topics such as public versus private. We started with public places, items, and internet safety and worked our way into private body parts. I appreciate that the program properly labels private parts of the body. I told my students that they needed to know the real names if they wanted to be farmers, doctors, nurses, teachers, moms and dads, firefighters, police officers, veterinarians, EMTs, etc. and that while we only say these words when we are hurt, are in the bathroom, and/or need help, it is important to know these terms even if they make us laugh. One of my students said it was a bit weird to hear me say those words and others were shocked that girls and boys have different body parts. But by the next day when we discussed caring for our bodies, the laughing and awkwardness had subsided.
The program teaches the personal safety strategy – Say No! Go! Tell! – and the students are able to remember this quite well. The teachers across the hall have heard us yelling ‘no’ on numerous occasions and I’m proud of how firm my students will be. We are learning that touching should always be safe. A student said to me, “Is my mom brushing my hair a safe touch because it hurts me?” Another student was able to compare this to getting a needle (necessary and from a doctor) so the class decided it was a safe touch. That is complex social thinking from a group of six and seven year olds! At the end of the lesson, a student asked if we would be talking about secrets, which just happened to be the next topic of discussion. If that’s not well-timed, I don’t know what is! Students are learning to identify their trusted people and that they are always allowed to say ‘no.’ They are able to define terms such as safety, secrets, bribery, etc. I’m so proud of the learning that has occurred.
While I felt ambivalent at the start, I am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to teach this program. It has more than exceeded my expectations. But if you are not yet convinced, I will leave you with this information from the Be Safe! Kit Information Package:
The safety of our children matters. Their rights matter. Having adults that protect them matters. Our children matter!