DALLAS TWP. — Seven-year-old Ethan Burns remembers when he encountered a stranger after becoming separated from his mom in a store.
“I was scared,” he said. “I went to the front of the store and talked to the register people. I waited for my mom.”
The Officer Phil Safety Program used humor, magic and puppets to teach Dallas Elementary School students how to handle similar situations Sept. 23.
A stranger comes in all shapes and sizes, Magic Dave, a representative with the Officer Phil Safety program, told the afternoon kindergarten through second-grade classes.
“A stranger can be a man, a woman and even other children,” he said. “If you don’t know them, then they are a stranger.”
To dispel the myth that strangers are scary-looking or unkempt people, Magic Dave asked the children to describe the appearance of a stranger.
Then he drew the characteristics on a hand-held white dry erase board.
The children shouted out features such as pointy ears, eye glasses, a pointy nose, a big smile and wearing a floral dress, which Magic Dave drew on the board with a black marker.
Then the simple drawing became animated, which surprised the children and teachers. The exchange between Magic Dave and the drawing made students laugh.
When the drawing tried to talk to the children, by offering candy and a car ride, Magic Dave quickly interrupted.
“Oh no, no, you can’t talk to the children because you are a stranger,” he told the drawing.
Then, turning his attention to the students, Magic Dave asked, “What do you do if a stranger talks to you?”
First, the children shouted, “run away,” and then, “get help.”
Magic Dave also recommended children should yell out, “Help! This person is a stranger.”
He erased the animated character and put away the board to bring out Lucky Duck.
The bright yellow stuffed duck said “hi” to the classes and Dallas Township Police Officer Gina Kotowski by saying, “What’s up, Officer Gina?”
“You are not supposed to say that to a police officer,” Magic Dave told the Duck.
“Why?” Lucky Duck asked.
“Because it is not respectful,” Magic Dave answered.
“Oh,” Lucky Duck said. “Good afternoon, Officer Gina.”
The children helped Lucky Duck learn safety rules to become a member of the Safety Squad.
Some of the safety tips Lucky Duck and the children learned were as follows:
• Wear safety equipment such as bike helmets
• Be aware of your surroundings
• Do not pick up things like pills, candy, needles or a gun.
Magic Dave asked Lucky Duck why he wouldn’t pick up something like a gun and give it to an adult.
“Guns are very dangerous,” Lucky Duck said. “I wouldn’t touch it and walk away.”
Dallas Elementary second-grade student, Tessa Brady, 7, of Dallas, liked the Officer Phil Safety Program.
“I like it all,” she said.
Ethan Burns of Shavertown liked the stranger part of the program since it related to his experience.
For more information about the Officer Phil Safety Program, visit Officerphil.com.