“A lot of children hear these things at home but not all of them. We want to make sure all kids get the message and know they can advocate for themselves in dangerous or unsafe situations.”
— Sunset School Counselor Jackie Schnellinger about the Talk about Touching curriculum
Craig Elementary School Students have begun, “Talk About Touching: A Personal Safety Curriculum for Grades K-3.”
Taught by elementary school counselors each year, Jackie Schnellinger, counselor at Sunset Elementary, said the curriculum provides valuable lessons in safety and social skills that every student can use.
The curriculum, which is school board approved and a coordinated effort between all four elementary school counselors, covers personal safety, touching safety and assertiveness and support. Components of the three sections include, gun safety, fire safety, differences between safe/unsafe/unwanted touch, when to keep secrets and how to handle bullying.
“It involves talking about the specific situation and we also do a lot of role playing so kids get to role play situations connected to the lesson,” Schnellinger said. “It’s learning by doing and learning skills actively. Research has shown when kids learn with that type of approach of hearing, seeing and acting out, children integrate that knowledge and then they can transfer it to other places.”
Schnellinger said she sometimes hears students during recess applying what they’ve learned from the curriculum to help remedy situations on the playground.
Schnellinger said it takes about five weeks to get through the curriculum.
“We want to have kids prepared and ready at the beginning of the school year as opposed to later into it," Schnellinger said. "We try to really present a lot of safety curriculum early in the year because of situations that could come up for them. I think we want them to have those skills and tools in their tool belts early on in the year.”
With three units for every grade, Schnellinger said each begins with very basic but still really important safety skills. She said students love discussing gun safety because they get to talk about how their parents keep their guns secure and the rules they have in their homes around guns.
Schnellinger said the curriculum covers topics such as why it’s not safe to play with matches and lighters, along with car safety including seat belts and booster seats.
The second unit gets into different types of touch. Safe touches, including hugs and kisses from trusted adults, rubs on the back, high fives and shaking hands. Unsafe touches get into the realm of sexual and physical abuse, where Schnellinger said she talks to students about the importance of safety with their bodies.
“We teach kids your body belongs to you,” Schnellinger said. “We advocate that nobody owns your body. It belongs to just you. Nobody has the right to touch it unless to keep you healthy and safe.”
Schnellinger said they don’t get into the language of private body parts, opting instead to make clear that private body parts are those covered by a swimming suit, avoiding a lot of language and discussions about sexuality.
The unit also includes three safety skills: “Use words that mean no. Get away if you can. Tell an adult as soon as you can, one you know and trust.”
Schnellinger said she makes sure to tell kids if one adult doesn’t believe them, to keep telling an adult until someone does.
Unit three focuses on assertiveness and dealing with compromising situations including bullying, peer pressure and how to use assertion without being aggressive.
“A lot of children hear these things at home but not all of them. We want to make sure all kids get the message and know they can advocate for themselves in dangerous or unsafe situations,” Schnellinger said. “We want to give them tools to cope with all the different kinds of problems life can throw at them and to be prepared.”
Schnellinger said they spend a ton of time talking about secrets and how it’s never good to keep one, including differences between good and bad secrets. She said good secrets might be about a surprise birthday party, present or surprise visit. Bad secrets are unsafe ones where a student is being hurt by keeping it.
Schnellinger said it’s great for parents to remind kids to be open and talking about what’s going on.
“We want them from a very young age to begin to advocate for themselves and be aware of safety issues. We want them to begin to develop that autonomy and knowledge that I’m responsible to keep myself safe,” Schnellinger said. “ So that’s what our hope is. That as they learn lessons in different topics they’ll be able to internalize that and go out in a different setting and be able to use that same skill.”
Schnellinger said she welcomes parents to stop by her office to look at the curriculum or call her if they have any questions at (970) 826-6524.
Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org