Boating safety award winners group up for a photo: Caitlyn Hammond (from left), Anthony Howell, teacher Kimberly Hoover, Kevin Walton and Cody Russell. Brandon Richter and Felysha Williams not pictured.
Brandon Richter and Keven Walton man the water safety booth at the Forest Service sponsored Kid's Fishing Day.
Story last updated at 3/13/2013 - 2:06 pm
"In high school, as I struggled to maintain my attendance and grades, he showed me that there's a purpose for me in this world. He gave me a reason to believe in myself and to not give up," said Naukati teacher Kim Hoover, referring to her high school Personal Social Responsibilities (PSR) class teacher, Mr. Chapin; an engaging educator whose inspiring convictions influenced her life.
Now a teacher herself, Hoover said her mentor taught that for some kids, it's not all about academics; relationships are also important.
"That's my philosophy as well," Hoover said. "If we build strong relationships with our students, they feel motivation to succeed in school and in life. They don't want to let you down when they know you believe in them."
Two years ago at the school where she teaches in Naukati, a small community on the west side of Prince of Wales Island, Hoover introduced the first PSR class; teaching responsibility with a curriculum that addressed National Health Standards while kindling motivation and direction in students. The class was so popular that students requested a PSRII class and Hoover decided to offer a curriculum focusing on leadership.
"I wanted to instill a sense of accomplishment in achieving personal goals; to empower students to make a difference, not only in themselves but in the school, Naukati and other communities," Hoover said.
A school aide and EMS Volunteer, Shelley Guerra, suggested the Kids Don't Float Peer Educator Program. Learning, then teaching, builds leadership qualities and water safety is important to any island community. Water safety courses were not currently being offered in Naukati School and this program provided a way for students to learn as well as share the knowledge. Hoover confirmed that the course looked like a good fit and invited Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Office of Boating Safety, Education Specialist Kelli Toth to Naukati.
Toth spent two full days in Naukati teaching the Kids Don't Float curriculum on life jacket law and use and cold water survival. Students wrote their own lesson plans and were taught presentation and delivery for instruction to younger children. One student, Brandon Richter, also an EMT1 with the Naukati volunteer EMS, built a life jacket "loaner board" with donations from local residents. Toth, Richter and local EMTs installed the board at the Naukati dock, filling the station with variously sized life jackets supplied by the Office of Boating Safety.
"They are an amazing group of kids," Toth said, "and it has been a real pleasure working with them."
Toth asserts with enthusiasm that the Peer Educator Program not only teaches crucially important water safety knowledge but "offers a much deeper learning experience and gives kids a chance to be leaders by educating others." Loaner boards, which can be built in any shape or style from available materials give students a chance to reach out to their community and presents an ongoing project for future students to maintain and update the station.
According to the DNR website, www.alaskaboatingsafety.org drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children in Alaska. In a mere 14 years from 1980 to 1994, 100 children under age 14 died in boating accidents. In 1996 the Kids Don't Float concept originated in Homer where, through cooperation of several institutions, 15 life jacket loaner stations were established in communities around Kachemak Bay. The program grew quickly so that currently at least 700 loaner boards are positioned in communities around Alaska (2,000 in U.S.), hosted by different agencies, organizations and individuals.
In January, Hoover was delighted to learn that her previous year's Personal Social Responsibilities class would receive the Alaska Office of Boating Safety's Gold Award 2012 by excelling in the Kids Don't Float Peer Educator Program. Students Brandon Richter, Kevin Walton, Felysha Williams, Cody Russell, Anthony Howell and Caitlyn Hammond expressed pride and satisfaction concerning the achievement and revealed an excellent comprehension of water safety knowledge.
Statewide, nine other high schools also earned silver and bronze awards from the Alaska Office of Boating Safety for their accomplishments in the program.
"Wearing a life jacket is so important because in an emergency, whether you can swim or not, cold water can restrict your breathing and a life jacket will keep you afloat," Hammond said.
Howell agreed, "It is really important that everyone study up on cold water survival, wear a life jacket and follow the boating regulations."
Naukati students expressed distinct satisfaction with their week long visit to the school in Port Alexander on nearby Baranof Island where they taught water safety and made friends they continue to correspond with. To demonstrate cold water immersion techniques, Walton and Richter courageously jumped into the frigid saltwater off the Port Alexander dock (with life jackets on) in a chilly episode Walton described as "awesome and fun."
Walton related that entering the cold water was shocking and that breathing was somewhat difficult at first. The two intrepid jumpers counted backward from five to work on breathing control, adjusted their life jackets and blew whistles, then assumed the proper position for retaining body heat. Walton's partner in crime, Richter, was not available for comment but one assumes he was similarly exhilarated by the experience.
At the Education Day/Science Fair held in Thorne Bay, the Naukati students hosted tutorials on life jacket types and purposes and cold water survival in 15 minute rotations for students from other SISD schools. Students were also challenged by activities such as a relay race where they ran to a bucket of ice water, immersed their hands for 30 seconds, then ran to their life jackets and put them on, struggling with frigid fingers to properly adjust and tighten them in a simulation of a cold water emergency situation.
At the Forest Service's annual Kid's Fishing Day event at the Klawock River Hatchery, two of the Naukati students, Walton and Richter ran a booth conducting fun-filled activities with children from all over the island on water and boating safety, partnering with USFS Law Enforcement Officer Chris Sakraida of the Craig Ranger District to distribute life jackets to children attending the booth.
As a Personal Social Responsibility class curriculum, the Kids Don't Float Peer Educator Program did work out as a great fit according to students Howell and Russell who said, "the leadership gained through doing that program and leading other students gave us more confidence so that this year we are the trainers; teaching teamwork, leadership, finding self-worth, confidence and personal and social responsibility to the younger students."
The award which Naukati School has received is called a perpetual plaque, designed with extra space for future awards to be added.