Spreading the safety message

by • May 13, 2013 • Safety MattersComments (0)262

Wilderness Safety Challenge expands to Barrow, Anaktuvuk Pass

 

NAOI instructor Jacob Shultz demonstrates the use of an avalanche transceiver to a group of youth from Bush communities who attended a training program in Palmer. By Debra McGhan

NAOI instructor Jacob Shultz demonstrates the use of an avalanche transceiver to a group of youth from Bush communities who attended a training program in Palmer. By Debra McGhan

Thanks to a grant from the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, on April 30 a team of five instructors with the North America Outdoor Institute head north to share the Wilderness Safety Challenge Game with kids in Barrow and Anaktuvuk Pass.

The game, developed under a grant from the State of Alaska Division of Parks Outdoor Recreation Trail Advisory Board, is geared toward children 6 to 18 years old.  It’s a chance to share lessons learned and work together to prevent unintentional injuries and protect the environment. Youth in Alaska (where there’s more winter than summer) deserve to have a quality educational program that teaches them basic snow-related outdoor recreational safety. And it needs to be simple, fun and effective.

The first NAOI team visiting Barrow consists of Dorothy Adler, NAOI education director; Debra McGhan, NAOI executive director; Shelley Plumb, instructor; DB Palmer, professor at Alaska Pacific University; and Sam Albanese, National Weather Service and National Rifle Association-certified firearms specialist.

Often, children in villages do not see the long-term impact of mistakes made, and the resulting tragedy, because villages are unable to provide long-term care for their injured. That means victims of, for example, an accidental shooting, end up being sent away to live in cities among strangers. Those in the villages may still have fond memories of that person, but they don’t see, day to day, the results of their mistakes — and the daily challenges faced by victims are often not understood.

Rural youth attend avalanche safety training in Palmer, Alaska with NAOI.

Rural youth attend avalanche safety training in Palmer, Alaska with NAOI.

“We know about many of the challenges faced by residents in these communities based on research and interviews with residents,” said Adler, who’s leading the program. “Our goal is to now develop a customized challenge game that addresses those issues so that we can work together to find and present long-term, sustainable solutions.”

NAOI has been working for years to perfect the Wilderness Safety Challenge Game and has learned much from presenting it at schools in Mat-Su. There, children have shared stories of close calls in the outdoors; it’s fulfilling to witness their excitement upon learning a new skill or accomplishing a goal.

“It’s really wonderful when you hear stories from these children and realize, while the daily challenges they face may be different from the kids on the Arctic Slope, so much of what they face living in Alaska is similar, and the lessons learned easily shared,” Adler said. “We know the students, parents and teachers in the Mat-Su Valley love this program, so it will be exciting to see what the kids up north can gain from this program.”

The team will be in Barrow May 1-2 and in Anaktuvuk Pass in mid-May. We look forward to sharing the experiences from this project in future editions. Stay tuned for updates, and meanwhile, check out www.BeSnowSmart.org to learn more about NAOI’s programs.

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