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June 18, 2004

AUBURN — Students at Casey Park Elementary School enjoyed a day of awards, prizes and fun learning — outside of the classroom.

The third-, fourth-, and fifth-, graders gathered in the auditorium for their end of the year Character Education assembly in the morning, while grades K, first, and second went outside for a "Great Safety Adventure."

Awards for the character trait of the month — friendship — were passed out. As those students received their certificates, their classmates in the audience applauded them.

Reading teacher Judy Gelston worked hard this year to get rewards for students. She was able to get the school "adopted" by WalMart. The school will be awarded a bike-a-month in the fall for the character education program.

Prizes this year included Bass Pro donation of two fishing poles, tackles boxes, and hats. Kinney Drugs gave a Barbie play set, and bean bag chair. Villano's Pizza donated free pizza and soda. The city of Auburn gave six free swim passes.

The Casey Park Parent Group donated two school shirts, and the Auburn Police Department gave two bicycle helmets.

The school participated in the St. Jude's Math-a-Thon.

Krina Patel and Joanne Leone were the grand prize winners, winning $154 and $125 respectively.

"It is all about our character education," Gelston said of her drive to get prizes for the kids. "Good character is what happens, even when no one is watching."

In the afternoon grades K, 1, and 2 had their turn to get prizes. Awards were handed out to those students who had perfect attendance throughout the year.

When not in the assembly, students took turns going on the "Great Safety Adventure." The educational program is put on by the Home Safety Council, and sponsored by Lowe's. The group tours nationally with a set of trailers that make up friendly dog Rover's home.

After entering a "living room" in Rover's home, the students watch a short video explaining that they need to be on the lookout for safety hazards — not just in Rover's home, but their own. With little flashlights, tour guide Jenni Martin asked the students to point their lights at any hazards they spotted.

She taught them the chant, "Code Red Rover! Grown-up come over!" The students enjoyed shouting the phrase out as they spotted hazards such as matches in front of the fireplace, or a toy truck someone could trip over on the stairs.

The group moved into Rover's kitchen where toys on the floor and cleaning products posed problems. In Rover's bathroom, students immediately pointed their light at the prescription bottles on the counter. But once they shouted their chant, the bottles disappeared and safety was restored.

The tour ended with a fire drill out of Rover's bedroom. Martin taught the students to check the door for heat with the back of their hands, so if it is hot, their palms would not be injured, and they'd still be able to open their window. "Smoke goes up, and we go down," Martin said, as the students crawled out of the room.

The "Great Safety Adventure" has been on tour for five years. Martin said they have returned to some of the same sites, and been told by both students and parents that the safety tips they learned saved their lives.

"Twenty million injuries occur in the home each year, resulting in 20,000 deaths annually," Martin said. "The main injuries are tripping and falling."

The group will be at Lowe's from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

"We're working to educate and empower families to take action in their homes," Martin said.

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— Compiled by David Wilcox

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