AHWAHNEE – Students at Wasuma School were treated to a very special day last Friday.
Not only did they get to explore fire engines, a bulldozer and a helicopter, and visit with Smokey Bear, they got to learn about some very interesting careers they many someday choose.
Kim O’Brien – mother of four, classroom mom and substitute teacher – started the ball rolling around Christmas time during a conversation with her husband about having parents come to school to talk about their jobs.
“The more we talked about involving more parents, the more we liked the idea of the kids being able to say, ‘that’s my mom,’ or ‘that’s my dad,’ and being proud of what their parents do,” she said.
The O’Briens presented their idea to the principal, and Mr. Mercier loved it and gave them one entire morning for “Career Day.”
Kim O’Brien’s husband is a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol in Oakhurst, and has brought his patrol car to the school on several occasions.
So building on that, she began asking parents about their businesses, and created a flier that she sent out to everyone in the school. She ended up with 10 booths for the kids to visit.
The day started with what was probably the most impressive sight for the kids – CHP’s H40 helicopter. The helicopter was scheduled to arrive before anybody else set up, and made its approach just as the buses were pulling up to drop off the kids, prompting those with cell phones and pull them out and start videoing.
As the day got underway, students were allotted time to visit all 10 of the booths and displays set up across the grassy field.
The Madera County Sheriff’s office was there with off-highway vehicles including snow machines and four-wheelers, often used for Search & Rescue missions. These kids were likely seeing something that would just be way fun to ride!
Cal Fire brought one of their very large bulldozers used to build very large firelines, along with the big red engines kids often see racing to the scene of traffic accidents and fires.
Firefighters were on-hand to show the students all the gear and equipment they use to do their various jobs. These guys don’t just fight fires, they also assist at traffic accidents, help sick and injured people, and set up landing zones for helicopters.
Becky Kern, from the Kern Family Farm in North Fork, brought the cutest participants of the day – a group of baby goats that bounded around, capturing everyone’s attention and inviting lots of petting.
Becky and her family run an organic farm where they raise fruits and vegetables, plus goats and chickens and other various critters. They will be opening a store on the main street in North Fork this summer, and have fresh produce at farmer’s markets in the area.
PG&E set up a display with a miniature town, complete with real wires strung between power poles.
They demonstrated how, when trees fall across the wires, they can start fires. They also talked to the kids about how electricity is conducted and that a down wire can still be a live wire, so they need to stay away.
Kids asked if that wire would shock them if they touched it, which prompted a lesson on how a ground works and how they can stay safe around power lines.
The Forest Service provided opportunities for the kids to have an up-close look at the tools of their trade, from chain saws to drip torches.
They displayed lots of dramatic photos of air tankers, helicopters and engines fighting fire in the forest, and arguably the best part for the kids was the chance to shake hands with Smokey Bear.
Joseph Clarke of Acoustica, a local software company, set up a keyboard and computer and showed the kids how he composes music.
Acoustica is an award-winning company that designs software that makes it easy for the average person to create music on their computer.
Students were allowed to tinker around and see what kinds of music they could create.
Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls provided the most delicious part of the day as they showed the kids how to make their mouth-watering treats.
They brought the dough and rolled it out, added all the ingredients and took them into the kitchen to bake up a batch. Then each of the kids got their own cinnamon roll to enjoy.
Julie Cruz, Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Registered Vascular Technologist, and Radiologic Technologist at Adventist Health, shared the world of x-rays and ultrasounds, and brought films of actual x-rays so kids could see what the bones inside their hands look like.
Dr. Dan O’Meara from Kaiser Permanente explored the challenges of asthma, which affects so many kids especially this time of year, and demonstrated that you can be a medical professional dealing with serious issues, and still be a fun and entertaining guy.
CHP Sgt. O’Brien honed his skills as a milliner, measuring, cutting and creating dozens and dozens of CHP hats for any student who wanted one – which was most of them! (His wife estimates over 200). He also shared with the kids all the interesting jobs there are in a career with the CHP.
Helicopter pilot is one of those jobs, and the pilots thrilled the kids at the end of the day when they lifted straight up off the grass, faced the kids, and then shot straight up and circled the field with the siren wailing before heading off down the mountain.
The day provided something for everyone, and a chance for the kids to learn just how many opportunities there are for rewarding careers.
And teachers, being teachers, took advantage of “teachable moments.” One had her kids make booklets where they took notes and wrote down something they liked from each station. She will be using those as the kids do their writing assignments next month.
Another teacher said that her kids were asking, “What’s the difference between a career and a job?” A very astute question.
“It was great for them to be able to see all the different occupations, and have conversations about what constitutes a career,” says Mrs. O’Brien. “Anybody can have a job. A career is something you choose to do and put time and effort into a certain path. It was really neat that the kids had questions about it.”
So now, she says, the parents are already asking what she is planning for next year!