By Mary E. B.. Perry
Schools belong to the community and the opportunity to highlight students, teachers, staff, and programs are an important part of the outreach of Desert Sands Unified School District. One of methods to do just that is called TREC (trustees reaching every community). This outreach program began almost four years ago. Community members board a school bus and spend a morning watching children as they learn.
This year we added a bit of a twist and designed the five TRECs taking place during the 2017-2018 school year to be based on STEAM (science, technology, art, music). In early October participants joined Superintendent Scott Bailey and board members Wendy Jonathan, Linda Porras, and Gary Tomak on two schools displaying their knowledge of fire technology.
Since 1933 the Historical Society of Palm Desert has coordinated a series of “mini-musters” with the elementary schools in their city. Working with the Riverside County Fire Station, stations 33 and 55, the more-than-50 volunteers teach children fire safety and the science and technology of preventing and fighting fires. TREC participants journeyed to Ronald Reagan Elementary School to take part in a tour of the school and the mini-muster.
The firefighters build and maintain the “sets” that are set up around the neighboring Palm Desert field. Activities include escaping from a smoke-filled room, a hose drag, bucket brigade, finding a way through a dark house, and more. Firefighters are located at each activity demonstrating and discussing the situations that could occur. Is water always the right source to put out a fire? Why not? What type of household hazardous chemicals could start a fire? What is an accelerant? Surrounding the field are modern day and historic local fire trucks and apparatus.
The third graders were rewarded with certificates and the opportunity to meet a firefighter dressed in turnout gear. Later in the month, all participating schools are invited to a recognition ceremony at a City of Palm Desert Council meeting.
Reluctantly, the TREC participants left Reagan Elementary and traveled on to Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Indio. A tour of the school included stops in a classroom teaching computer coding, one focused on robotics, and another on the technology required to operate a media center. But the visit also included more on fire science and technology. Firefighters from the Indio Fire Department were on hand to brief guests on how the school’s 6th, 7th, and 8th graders met with them to discuss what improvements could be made to fire apparatus to make the equipment better meet the firefighters’s needs. Students responded with new designs for a lighter-weight “Jaws of Life”, innovative breathing apparatus, and more. The fire department continues to work in partnership with the school in the ongoing study of science and technology, keeping in mind that engineering, math, and even the art of design are all part of the process to improve ways to save lives.
Following the tours, members of the community met to discuss their impressions of the day’s events. Facilitated by Superintendent Scott Bailey who began by pointing out that tomorrow is here and that we “teach kids the way they want to learn not the way we want to teach.” Quinton Egson, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Coachella Valley commented that this was “knowledge in disguise.” Cal State San Bernardino Assistant Dean Michael Salvador commented, “I wasn’t prepared for this level of community involvement. I am so very impressed with the teachers and level of their continued learning.”
Additional TRECs are planned throughout the year including a visit to the Riverside County Fair to learn about animal science from Indio High School students; the Bermuda Dunes airport with Shadow Hill High School students combined with a stop at the automotive facility at Amistad High School as guests learn more about DSUSD engineering programs; the viewing of a performance at McCallum Theatre with elementary school students; culminating in participating at the annual Rotary-sponsored Middle School Math Day at John Glenn Middle School. For more information or to participate in a TREC, email Mary.Perry@DesertSands.US
Mary E. B. Perry is the Public Information Officer at Desert Sands Unified School District.