The snow is finally falling, winter's here and, as most area school kids know, that means it's time for a visit from Safety Seal.
The childhood injury prevention character is making the rounds at area elementary schools, helping Central Peninsula General Hospital emergency room nurse Jane Fellman teach children about ways to stay safe and warm through the winter.
Fellman is the coordinator of the Safe Kids program on the central peninsula. Each year, she spends time visiting kindergarten through second-grade classrooms in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to talk about issues such as winter warmth, safe snow play and secure summer fun.
"We try to touch the areas we see as problems around the schools," Fellman said. "I adjust (the presentations) differently depending on the age, and do injury prevention, trying to get kids aware using Safety Seal and the five senses."
She brings props for the presentations, as well as the Safety Seal costume. Sixth-grade students -- old enough to have memorized the presentations -- take turns donning the attire and greeting the younger children.
On Tuesday, Fellman and her water friend were at Nikiski Elementary talking about winter gear, hypothermia and frostbite.
"Now that we finally see the snow outside, we know winter's really here," Fellman told the second- and third-graders in Elizabeth Hufford's class. "That means it's time to start making good choices about our clothing."
Encouraging the kids' participation, Fellman outlined the key to staying warm on the playground.
Students should bring a warm winter coat, warm snow boots, hats and water-resistant mittens or gloves to school each day, Fellman told the students.
The coats should be brightly colored and equipped with reflective tape or fabric. Foot gear should be designed for winter -- rubber boots don't keep the toes warm -- and students should have an extra pair of shoes at school for indoor use, because if their feet sweat in their outdoor boots, they will get colder when they go outside. Knit gloves are fine for short periods outside, but won't keep hands dry and warm during recess play, she said.
Children also should wear layers, so they can take clothes off if they get too warm in the heated classrooms, she added.
Fellman also discussed winter dangers such as frost nip, frostbite and hypothermia.
Frost nip, she explained, is when body parts start to freeze partially. Fingers or toes will tingle or sting, and the skin will look blotchy with red, blue, purple and white hues. Frostbite is the next step, when a body part will freeze completely, turn white and lose all feeling, she told the kids.
She reminded students to pay attention to their bodies' signals and watch out for their friends on the playground. She also noted that students should tell an adult immediately if they experience any of the symptoms of frost nip or frostbite, and avoid putting pressure on the frozen body part.
Fellman also talked to the students about hypothermia, when the body's temperature drops too low.
Again, she encouraged the students to be aware of their bodies, and the class helped brainstorm ways to regain warmth if children get too cold.
But, she warned the students, it's not a good idea to try to convince teachers that you're suffering hypothermia at recess.
She explained that outdoor recess is important for exercise, fresh air and a break from studies, and that the schools have guidelines for what weather conditions are safe for students.
She told students they need to ask themselves what's wrong if they get cold every day at recess, then check their outer gear and bring more layers of clothes to school.
Finally, Fellman talked about winter road safety, such as making sure drivers can see children coming to school in the dark and waiting until cars are completely stopped before crossing the street.
"Have I forgotten anything?" Fellman asked the students as she ended the presentation.
"Safety Seal!" shouted a few kids. And in walked the furry character -- played by sixth-grader Marissia Dixon -- and her guide, classmate Ivory Trenton.
"We saw (Safety Seal) when we were little," Trenton said before the pair entered the classroom. "Everyone gets to see him."
"We thought he was real," added Dixon in partial costume.
"Now that they're older, the pair said they enjoyed making the character real for the younger students.
"We love little kids," Dixon said. "And it's important so they don't dress wrong."
"So they don't get frostbite," Trenton added.
"So they can be healthy little kids," Dixon said.
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