Spot Barks Up Right Tree To Teach Tots Fire Safety
Spot is an 18-inch dalmatian dog puppet that is used to teach fire prevention to pre-schoolers and handicapped persons in the Peoria, Ill., area.
The idea of “Spot the Fire Dog” first entered my mind last May while I was attending public education classes at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. Peoria Chief Harold Schmeilski is very interested in public education and is always looking for ways to improve the department. It was decided that I should attend the academy to learn new and better ways of teaching fire prevention.
While at the academy, one of our class assignments was to explain the ways that we were presently teaching preschoolers fire prevention and to design a different way to teach the same age group. Our program consisted of films, demonstrations and classroom participation. At the time we were using the film, “Snuffy the Talking Fire Truck” (distributed by Burger King), and two telephones. The children would watch the film and after classroom discussion, they would practice using the telephone to learn the proper way to report a fire. Using two telephones in this way also taught them the importance of knowing their address and that help was just a phone call away.
The class would practice “stop, drop and roll” to impress upon their minds what to to do if their clothing caught fire. The films that we were using had been on hand for years. Most of the children had seen them and, as a result, it became difficult to hold their attention with reruns. Our class at the academy had discussed various ways of holding their attention, such as flash cards, new films, fire fighters’ clothing, toy fire apparatus and the possible use of puppets.
Fire dog puppet
The idea that we might be able to use a puppet in our prevention program was exciting. After some consideration, the puppet program was approved by Schmeilski and Ernie Russell, chief of our fire prevention bureau. It was felt that children would relate well to a puppet and it could be made at little cost to the department.
We wanted to find a puppet that the children could identify with and one that could hold their attention throughout a class. For years the dalmatian has been the mascot of fire departments all over the nation. Children and adults alike associate this dog with fire fighters. What could be better than a puppet modeled after our department mascot, Spot! Once this decision had been made, it took only a short time to gather the materials needed to design an make Spot.
After taking a couple of days to write the stories that Spot would tell the children, we held auditions to find just the right voice for Spot.
The voice that was chosen belongs to one of our fire investigators. ,We arranged Spot’s parts of the programs on tapes, timing them so I could prompt Spot’s remarks. The recorder is set close by so I can turn it on and off if the children interrupt to ask questions.
After a few practice performances, I tried the program in a classroom and it worked well. Since that time, Spot and the taped programs have been used in all the pre-school presentations, and the response from teachers and administrators has been excellent. This program has also been used in presentations to mentally handicapped persons. Spot the Fire Dog has received an overwhelming response, and we think the puppet will be a great asset to our public education division.
Material used in the puppet program consists of the following:
- Two yards of terry cloth.
- Ribbon for the collar.
- Three cassette tapes.
It took a total of six hours to make the puppet and tapes. Two days were spent on writing and recording the three programs: “What to Do if There Is a Fire in Your House,” “Cooking out,” and “Never Play With Matches.” The total cost of the program was a few hours of work and $10.60