The Arnot Odgen Medical Center Auxiliary has been working to keep children safe from accidental poisoning since 1972, when the Emergency Department asked volunteers to present a program in the schools. In the beginning, children were taught to work with parents to put stickers on dangerous products, but by 1998, the regional poison center was advocating a very different approach. Because stickers fall off or may not be applied as products are replaced or may not be used at relatives’ homes, a new program was developed to teach children to think: “If you don’t know what it is, STAY AWAY and ask a grown-up.”
This new focus required creation of new, original scripts, visuals, and handouts, and three new “partners” joined the team: puppet bunnies named Twitch and Twiggle and a squirrel named Flibberty Jibbet. In Book One, Twitch gets in trouble with grandpa’s medicine. Children discover how much candy and medicine look alike, in shape, in color, and sometimes in taste. In Book Two, Flibberty Jibbet joins in, and they explore dangers outdoors and in daddy’s garage.
Their actions provide “teachable moments,” which are creatively presented to young children by volunteers who are experienced, retired elementary school teachers. These dedicated volunteers presented this valuable 30-minute program to over 4700 children in 66 schools last year alone. Schools include every public and most parochial schools in Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, Tioga Counties and in northern Pennsylvania, as well as Head Start classes and nursery schools throughout the area.
The goals of the program are:
- To inform young children about the dangers of common substances found in their daily environment.
- To heighten a child’s awareness about unsafe products and practices in an entertaining way, with a “story time” format and a kit which helps demonstrate how products can look alike, but one may be safe and the other, dangerous.
- To teach each child to think for themselves: “If you don’t know what it is, STAY AWAY from it and ask a grown-up what it is before touching it. Something may look pretty, feel good, taste good, smell good, but it still could be poison.”
- To encourage dialogue between parents and children and to educate both parents and teachers about poison prevention tips.
- To reinforce the 911 emergency phone number.
- To publicize the National Poison Emergency Number, 1-800-222-1222, which connects the caller to the nearest regional poison center.
We salute our volunteer presenters, who are instrumental in keeping children safe! They are: Beverly Evans, Sue Fahnestock, Maureen Gladke, Ellen Hicks, Linda Murelle, Debby Perry, Nan Wyak, and Marge MacPherson (Mrs. Mac), chairperson.