Austin kindergartners meet Smokey Bear

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2004

While it is easy to name most of the community helpers in our city’s and towns some may not immediately come to mind. When people see fireman or policeman there is no doubt they are community helpers.

However, there are many others who make our communities run smoothly. There are doctors, store owners and restaurants that also play a huge role.

At R.L. Austin Elementary School in Georgiana, the kindergarten teachers like to teach their students this at an early age. Each year the school takes each of their kindergarten classes on a tour around the city to introduce them to the people that make their community work. Thursday, the kept this tradition alive first stopping at the Georgiana Fire Department for an educational experience and a visit from the one and only Smokey Bear.

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R.L. Austin kindergarten teacher Vanessa Sledge said the children make a full circle around the town.

&uot;We go all the way around Georgiana to visit the different businesses like the hospital, the post office, restaurants and others,&uot; said Sledge. &uot;It is wonderful for the children. They really seem to enjoy it.&uot;

The visits are all part of a unique program the school has to let the students know what contribution each person or business makes to helping the community.

&uot;This is all part of our Community Helpers Social Studies Unit,&uot; said teacher Delphine Hartin. &uot;It gives places around town a chance to tell us a little bit about what they do and gives them a chance to show us too. We go to all sorts of places from Kathy’s Kafe to the police department. It is great for the children.&uot;

Naturally, the children were especially excited about their visit to the Georgiana Fire Department. The experience of seeing a fireman in full uniform, a chance to play with the hose and the thrill of meeting Smokey Bear had even the teachers excited.

&uot;I think we were all very excited about coming to the fire department,&uot; said R.L. Austin teacher Yvonne Gulley. &uot;For the kids to get to play with the hose and meet Smokey was great. We really do enjoy getting to visit our community helpers.&uot;

While a new crop of children make the trip every year, the program itself has been around for a long time. R.L. Austin kindergarten teacher Geraldine Feagin, who has been with the school for a number of years, said the program has been around longer than her.

&uot;I have been around for 31 years and the program has always been here,&uot; said Feagin. &uot;For all that time it has just been an annual thing.&uot;

Feagin said the great thing about the program is that it takes the students to the action. Feagin said the school has been fortunate to be in such a helpful town where everyone has an open door to the youth.

&uot;This program is good because instead of bringing the community to the children we are able to bring the children to the community,&uot; said Feagin. &uot;They have always been very supportive of us. They back us up on more than one thing. If we do need them to come to the school they will be there.&uot;