Sunday, January 9, 2011

Homeschool Field Trip: The Fire Station

Our homeschool group has plenty of kids who are the perfect age to enjoy this field trip. Seriously, Sydney and Willow couldn't have been more excited by a field trip to a unicorn farm, or a toy pony factory. When I was a little kid I always seemed to have some sucky thing going on, like pneumonia, or a tonsillectomy, every single time our class took a field trip, so I'd never been to the fire station, either, and when the girls were all, "Do they have real fires there?" "Will we get to use the hose?" "Do they ever take off their fire helmets?", I was all, "I don't know!"

Let's find out, shall we?

We all sat in the firefighter living room while Firefighter Dan talked to us about fire safety:
The girls and I have had our chats about fire safety, sure, but they listened with bated breath as Firefighter Dan coached them in stop, drop, and roll, and not to goof around with matches (thankfully Willow did not volunteer the fact that her occasional evening treat is to light a stick of incense with a cigarette lighter--carefully supervised, of course), etc. All the children thought it was REALLY funny to be quizzed about proper evacuation procedures:

Firefighter Dan: "Do you stop to eat a peanut butter sandwich?"
Children: [insert shouts of laughter] "NO!!!!!"

I learned something new, too: If you're in a building that's on fire, and you can get to a window and open it, but you can't escape out of that window, you should just start throwing stuff out of it. Firefighters walk the perimeter of a building that's on fire, and if they see a bunch of junk out in the yard, then they'll know that there's somebody up above that junk. Another firefighter told the children that if a firefighter is ever in a lot of trouble in the same situation, that firefighter will throw his or her helmet out the window so that the other firefighters know who is trapped and where they are. For some reason, the children all fixated on this piece of information:

Child: "But what if something falls on your head and you don't have your helmet on?"
Firefighter: "It's a risk we have to take if we're in that much trouble, but usually we get down on the floor and cover our head."
Another Child: "What if your helmet lands in the next yard and the other firefighters don't see it?"
Firefighter: "We'd try not to throw it that hard, but the other firefighters look around really well, too, so they could find it."
Another Child: "But what if your helmet got caught in a tree and didn't fall down to the ground?"
Firefighter: "The helmet's heavy, and we'd try not to throw it towards a tree."

There were several more excellent helmet-related questions, but you get the idea.

I was the most excited for the girlies to see the firefighters in their full gear. I've often explained about how loud and smoky and dark a fire would be, and how firefighters wear special clothes to protect their skin and masks to protect their eyes and lungs and that their voices will come from speakers in their masks, and so even though they'll look and sound like monsters they're actually there to rescue you, and you have to run to them if you see them and not hide from them, but it's still something that I've always been nervous about. A few years back a fellow graduate student was a bit incapacitated at the time that his apartment caught fire, and like a child he hid in his closet and was killed there. It just seems like such the instinctive thing to run and hide when there's something scary, especially if there's some strange, faceless giant lumbering about and calling your name in a Darth Vader voice.

These firefighters, of course, were way on top of those concerns. This particular firefighter (Firefighter Jeff? Firefighter Dan?) knelt down at the children's level as he put on all of his gear, telling them why each piece was important as he put it on and continually reminding them that it was just him under all of it, even when it didn't look like him at all:
Even though our tour of the engine bay later on was also very excellent, and even though the girls were thrilled at getting to climb into a real live fire truck, and even though headquarters ran a fire drill for us so that we could hear the alarm in the station and that was also awesome, this photo below, taken after the firefighter invited the children up to examine his gear more closely, remains my favorite moment of our trip:
I don't recall if Willow was specifically invited to knock on this firefighter's head, but I guess that's another way that helmets are useful.

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