HURON — “How many of you like homework?” Lowell Perman asked Mrs. Johnson’s second grade class late Wednesday afternoon.
A few hands tentatively went up in the air. “OK, good,” he said.
“Now, how many would like it if that homework was for your parents?” There was nothing tentative about the reaction to that question.
Hands shot to the ceiling.
The homework that Perman was sending home with this class, and had already done for other classes at the Madison 2-3 Center, as well as students at the Washington 4-5 Center, could be life-saving as he impressed upon the second graders the importance of being prepared in case of emergency.
Perman’s presentation was part of the Red Cross Pillowcase Project, which was suggested by the local Red Cross, sponsored by Disney and coordinated through the Tiger Afterschool Program. At its heart, the project encourages placing important emergency items - bottles of water, medical needs, perhaps a change of clothes or a battery-operated radio (with extra batteries!) are a few suggestions, in a white pillowcase from the American Red Cross. A list of items to consider adding are spelled out on the pillowcase itself, which Perman encouraged the students to decorate in any way they wanted. Additional things to consider in case of emergency also went home with the students in the form of a “Preparedness Workbook.”
The workbook, also provided by the American Red Cross, guides students and their families through steps to be prepared in the event of a fire, a tornado or other disaster. Perman encouraged the students to go home and talk with the other members of the family, to form a plan in case of emergency and to put those plans down in the booklet so that everyone understands what to do.
For instance, he showed where a family can decide where to meet outside, if their house is on fire. “It could be a tree in the yard, or maybe a swing set,” he said. “Just someplace for everyone to meet so when the firemen arrive, you can tell them either that everyone is safely out of the house or that someone is still inside.”
“When you have a plan,” Perman said, “I want you to do three things, OK? I first want you to Learn the plan, then I want you to Practice you plan and then Share your plan.”
He noted how what he was asking is similar to playing an instrument or participating in sports.
“You learn to do it, you practice it and then you share with the other people in the band or on your team.”
After answering questions, the students took fabric markers and began decorating their pillowcases.
“I volunteer at the Red Cross,” Perman said as the students colored away. “This is the fourth presentation that I’ve done in Huron and I have gone to some other towns as well. I have been doing this for about three years.”
Perman noted that the pillowcase project began following Hurricane Katrina, as a way for students to both understand the importance of being prepared for an emergency, and the steps to take to gain skills to deal with a catastrophe.
He said he has helped with the Red Cross smoke detector program, and is also involved with the Dakota Action Team, which provides emergency funds and shelter for families who have been subjected to loss by fire or tornado.