By Ron Reimann
The Farm Safety Centre in Raymond reached a significant milestone in 2016, celebrating its 18th consecutive year with their School Smarts Program, an interactive presentation teaching children one-on-one about farm safety.
The milestone was celebrated by the Farm Safety Centre’s volunteer board with a dinner on May 22nd at the Raymond Senior Centre. Volunteers, Town officials, donors and teachers were thanked for their vision and dedication since its inception in September 1998.
Safety Smarts has seven different programs presented by paid instructors, delivering their safety messages to rural elementary schools and Hutterite colonies. They travel all across Alberta 3-4 days a week to deliver safety instruction. This year alone, over 50,000 students in 2,500 rural classrooms have participated in the program.
“It’s the people in the field that really make this program work,” said Executive Director Laura Nelson. “They’re all farm people too. They really care.”
Nelson said the younger children in kindergarten and Grade 1 learn more about the awareness and avoidance aspects of farm safety, including where they should play, staying away from tractors, one seat for one rider and seatbelt importance.
“As they get older, the instructors will do more messaging”, said Nelson. The presentations are approximately 60-90 minutes in length.
In its 18 years of delivery, the Safety Smarts program has generated staggering statistics. Approximately 4,900 schools, 26,800 classes and 541,000 children have listened to the presentations by 21 instructors who logged over 1,306,000 kilometres. To put that distance in perspective, that’s 32.5 times around the world.
Chris Hogg, Safety Smarts Program Coordinator for Farm Safety Centre said the program has come a long way since 1998.
“When I was instructing a number of years ago, there was one instructor and we were happy with teaching a couple of thousand kids. Now, we have eight instructors throughout the province and this year, we are hoping to teach 60,000 kids,” said Hogg.
In 2015, Farm Safety Centre received support from over 170 entities and organizations including the provincial government and Hutterite colonies.
Hogg is excited about the future of Safety Smarts. “It’s just an exciting time to see how this program has evolved and spread. Some of the kids were in kindergarten when the program first started and now they are starting to have kids. Hopefully, those messages that they heard in elementary schools have stuck with them and will use them in their family farms.”