With no snow on the ground and warmer than average temperatures for a late October day, the Knowlton kids play outside during a break from home school. The kids kicked a ball for their dog, Pepper, to chase, ran down the family’s driveway and enjoyed the crisp autumn breeze.
Madeline and Samuel Knowlton are the oldest of the five siblings. While they play like average kids, two certificates on the table of their home signify that the two also have the knowledge to stay calm in the face of an emergency.
The two received the certificates and were each recently named Safe Sitter of the Year for their courage during last December’s earthquake, which measured 5.8 magnitude on the Richter scale.
While their mother, Marcia Knowlton, was in the family’s garage last year, unpacking from their recent move, Samuel, now 13, and Madeline, 11, were watching siblings Jacob, 6, Katee, 4 and toddler Joel, in the home.
After almost an hour, Marcia said she heard a loud boom, and thinking it was the children creating noise from the playroom above the garage, she yelled for the kids to stop stomping. However, she said everything around her started to shake and she quickly realized the boom was an earthquake.
“I was freaking out,“ Marcia said. “I could not remember what to do.”
She said she ran up to the main part of the house to find Madeline and Samuel speaking calmly to their siblings. Madeline was under the sturdy coffee table with Joel and Katee while Samuel held the toddler, Joel, behind the couch.
“The kids were fine; they were actually giggling,” she said.
The siblings took the Safe Sitter course at Central Peninsula Hospital the month prior to the quake.
The Safe Sitter class prepares young adolescents for the responsibilities of nurturing and protecting children. The class was founded in 1980 by Indianapolis pediatrician Dr. Patricia A. Keener, after a colleague’s 18-month-old chocked to death while under the care of an adult sitter. Dr. Keener developed the course as a medically accurate instructional program designed for young adolescents. The curriculum is regularly updated and the course is offered in nearly 900 teaching sites across the country.
According to Sheila Juarez, staff development coordinator with CPH, during the two-day course held at the hospital, kids ages 11 to 13 learn to stay calm and safe in the event of emergencies, as well as learn the basics of CPR, first aid and the responsibilities that come with baby sitting. Participants also receive a colorful instructional manual and a backpack filled with a first aid kit, flashlight and instructional pad for baby sitting jobs.
Madeline heard about the class earlier in the year from her cousin, and she told her mother it was something she wanted to do. Samuel said he would take the class with his sister.
Marcia said she spoke with the Connections Home School Program’s Principal Lee Young about the class. He was happy to hear the kids were taking the class.
“For all kids, not just home-schooled kids, baby sitting is an important job,” Young said. “It’s about more than making money. You need life and safety skills to care of children.”
If the class is apart of the home-schooled student’s health curriculum in their Individual Learning Plan, the cost of the class may be covered by the student’s allocation.
Marcia was able to facilitate a Safe Sitter class just for home-schooled students.
After the class, she said Madeline and Samuel explained to her what they learned, but they truly showed her the importance of the class when they stayed cool and calm during the earthquake.
Marcia was so impressed that she became a Safe Sitter instructor at CPH.
Safe Sitter courses are held during public school holiday breaks, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Breaks.
Since the class, Madeline has taken several baby sitting jobs a month and is able to make some cash to buy herself some toys. She said she also pays her big brother to do her chores while she is on a baby sitting job.
“I think I know a lot more (about baby sitting) now,” she said. “I think the class really helps.”