Fire Safety With Smokey, Sparky, and Sesame Street
- Grades: PreK–K
Hello, readers! I know this is the last day of fire prevention week and many teachers have had enough of fire prevention activities. If this describes you, then these ideas could come in handy next year. If you haven't started yet, you're probably wondering how you can do anything in one day. One day is better than none at all, but I think it will be okay if you break the rules and teach fire safety next week, too. It's relevant all year round, and you can use any opportunity, like when a fire engine goes by or just after a fire drill, to talk about fire with your students. And Smokey Bear, Sparky the Fire Dog, and the Sesame Street muppets are all iconic, loveable characters who can help you.
Who is Smokey? Who is Sparky? Why Sesame Street?
Smokey Bear has been the mascot of the United States Forest Service since 1944. His slogan, "Only you can prevent forest fires!" was changed in 2001 to "Only you can prevent wildfires!" in order to include grasslands. His mission is to educate the public on preventing outdoor fires from starting in the first place. He wears jeans and a forest ranger's hat.
Sparky the Fire Dog has been the mascot of the National Fire Protection Association since 1951. His mission is to educate the public on fire safety and awareness. Children see him on Fire Prevention Week materials every year. He wears a fire jacket (usually yellow) and hat.
The United States Fire Administration and Sesame Workshop helped to create a curriculum called the Sesame Street Fire Safety Station starting in 1979. The kit, which includes the activities I talk about in this post, was developed for Pre-K, but would be just as effective with kindergartners.
Read on to find out how all of these characters can help your students learn about fire.
Download, print, and read The True Story of Smokey Bear comic book, published in 1959. (For some reason, there are extra copies of the last page.)
Smokey comic books from the 1970s
Download these coloring sheets
Remind your students that wild animals depend on people to keep their home safe. Teach them these outdoor fire safety tips:
- Never play with matches or lighters
- Build campfires out in the open
- Don't leave a fire unattended
- Never use stoves, lanterns, or heaters inside a tent
- Inspect your campsite before leaving
Sign the "Get Your Smokey On" wildfire pledge at the official Smokey Bear Web site to get a free Smokey mask. Print two for each child. With a black marker, turn the corners of the mouth up slightly on the first, and turn the corners of the mouth down slightly on the second.
Glad Smokey, Sad Smokey (Adapted from Kinder Themes)
Read some good and bad outdoor fire safety statements. ("There were some children playing with matches"; "A group of campers put out their fire when they left," etc.). After each statement, have your students hold up the mask that shows how they think Smokey would feel.
Sparky the Fire Dog
This year, Sparky's theme is "Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With." A good thing to teach your students is that the reason smoke alarms are so loud and piercing is because they warn when there is smoke or a fire.
Show your students a real smoke detector or a picture, so that they know what one looks like. Explain that smoke alarms use batteries. Then hang up a Seek & Find poster of Sparky and friends at the natural history museum, and have them find all the hidden smoke alarms, batteries, and silly items. Print out this sheet to help them keep track.
Discuss the importance of having a plan to escape a fire at home. There should be two ways out of every room, and each child's family should have a place outside to meet. Review the steps to safety: making a home escape plan, hearing the smoke alarm, getting out of the house, and going to the meeting place. Have your students put the steps in order with this cut-and-paste activity.
Smoke, Smoke, FIRE!
Play the game Duck, Duck, Goose - but make it Smoke, Smoke, Fire! The kid who gets tagged has to sit in the middle of the circle to "cool down" until the next person gets tagged.
Print take-home sheets for students' families
The Sesame Street fire safety curriculum says that the two most important messages to teach children about fire are:
- Hot things burn
- Get out and stay out!
Other messages are:
- Matches and Lighters Are for Grown-Ups
- Cool a Burn
- If Your Clothes Catch on Fire - Stop, Drop, and Roll!
- A Smoke Detector Warns About Fire
- Firefighters Rescue People and Put Out Fires
- Plan and Practice Fire Drills
Teach your students to understand what's hot and what's not. They should know to stay away from any surface or appliance that is hot, can get hot, or can send sparks. If you touch something hot, it can burn you. And that hurts. Teach the phrase "If you don't know, don't touch" to reinforce the message.
Play & Practice Lesson 1: Red Dot, Blue Dot
Walk around the room with your students. Point out various objects and ask, "Can this get hot, or not?" Hot things include lamps, outlets, heaters, toasters, microwaves, coffee pots or coffee cups, irons, ovens, sinks, candles, projectors, and warming trays (for art projects). Place a red dot on - or near - objects the children have told you can get hot. Place a blue dot on objects that do not get hot.
Teach the children that cigarette lighters and matches are dangerous items meant only for grown-ups. If a child finds a book of matches or a lighter, he should never touch it, but leave it where he found it and tell an adult, who will pick it up and put it away.
Play & Practice Lesson 2: Find That Match
Show your students a real book of matches and a lighter. Remind them that these objects make fire, and that they should never touch them. Then show them pretend matches (paint the end of popsicle sticks with red paint or nail polish) and empty matchbooks. Tell the children they are going to play hide-and-seek to find hidden matches. If they find one, they must tell you, and you will come and pick it up. Let them play until they have found all the hidden items.
Cool water can make a hot burn feel better. Ask your students to remember how they felt after being in the sun on a hot day, and how good it felt to jump into cool water.
Play & Practice Lesson 3: Cool Water
With red or orange finger paint, put a tiny "burn" on each child's finger, elbow, hand, or forearm. Now let children put their "burn" in soothing cool water. Remind them that cool water will make a burn feel better and will help it start to heal. But they must tell a grown-up about their burn, and the grown-up may take them to a doctor.
Teach your students that if their clothes catch on fire, they should stop where they are, drop to the ground, and roll back and forth until the fire is out. Children can get confused about when to stop, drop, and roll, so remind them to do this only when their clothes catch on fire. If their clothes are not on fire, they should get out and stay out of the area.
Play & Practice Lesson 4: Stop, Drop, & Roll
Make "flames" out of red or orange felt, construction paper, or tissue paper. Tape the flames to your own arm or leg and demonstrate how to stop, drop, and roll back and forth. When you are done, remove the flames and explain again that this action has put out the fire. Then have a student demonstrate. Pull the flames off their clothing as they roll. They should keep rolling until all the flames are removed.
Point to your noise and sniff. Then point to a smoke detector and say, "Its job is to smell smoke." Demonstrate the sound of a smoke detector. Practice a fire drill using a smoke detector to sound the alarm. Teach your students to get out and stay out of a burning or smoke-filled building.
Choose a specific spot outside of your building as your "meeting place," where everyone will gather after getting out of the building. Tell the children that a grown-up will tell them when it's safe to go back inside after a fire drill.
In order to teach children about the dangers of smoke, they have to know what it looks and smells like. Light a candle, blow it out, and have the children watch the smoke. Explain that the candle's little flame makes a small amount of smoke, but a big fire in a building makes a lot of smoke. There is "bad" air higher up in the room, and "good" air lower to the floor. If they are ever in a fire, they should "get low and go" by crawling underneath the smoke.
Play & Practice Lesson 5: Be a Smoke Detective
Use a blanket as "smoke" and, stretching it between you and another adult, wave it slightly a few feet above the ground for a rolling smoke effect. Starting at one end, have children one-by-one practice getting low then crawling under the smoke to the other end - to safety.
Teach children to recognize the word "EXIT." It's very important to know that this word signals the closest way out of a room or building.
Play & Practice Lesson 6: Exit Means "Go Out"
Make a model exit sign using big red block letters on white paper. Help the children make similar signs. Discuss the use of the sign and all the places where it should be hung. Tape a sign to the doors leading out of your classroom. Tour the school for fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and exit signs.
Children are generally able to identify a picture of a firefighter, yet in actual fire situations, they become frightened of firefighters in their special protective gear, especially the air mask. Remind your students that even in that strange-looking clothing, a firefighter is a very important friend who could help them get to safety.
Explain that when firefighters try to put out a fire they can look very strange, because they have to wear some very strange-looking things. They wear great big hats to make sure that they won't get hurt if something falls on their head. In case they have to go through a locked door, firefighters carry an axe. Since fires make lots of smoke, sometimes they have to wear special masks on their faces so they can breathe better. Provide a child-sized firefighter suit (boots, hose, jacket, paper or plastic hat) for pretend play.
When your students have learned their fire safety lessons, present them with an award. Print out a hat, badge, and certificate from Scholastic (subscription required). Or try a free Junior Fireman badge and Stop, Drop, and Roll certificate. And don't forget a Sesame Street Certificate of Merit (View this photo), signed by you and Big Bird!
Here's what else I did with my students this year:
We made stick puppets of a fireman (with a drinking straw and Wikki sticks for a hose and water) and Sparky. We also made dalmations out of paper cups.
Here we are making firefighter hand puppets and fire engine books, practicing Stop, Drop, and Roll, and playing "Report a Fire," a game we adapted from Alphabet Soup where the children sit in a circle and pass a pretend telephone around until I give a signal, and the person holding the phone at that time dials 911 to report a fire.
We really enjoyed the campfire snack recipe from Making Learning Fun. I had to use Hot Tamales for the coals since I couldn't find Red Hots.
For some good books about fire to read to your class, check out my book list.
For more fire safety resources, search Scholastic for fire safety.
To learn more about Smokey Bear and wildfire prevention, visit the official Smokey Bear Web site, the United States Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and Smokey Bear Public Service Announcements.
To find out more about fire safety and prevention, and to order the Sesame Street Fire Safety Station kit, see the United States Fire Administration and its Sesame Street Fire Safety Station Curriculum.