As number of missing kids in the nation rises, teacher's efforts timely
BENSON -- One of the worst places for parents to see their child's face is on a milk carton. But when more than 2,000 children in the U.S. are reported missing each day, how can parents teach their children about avoiding abduction and make the l...
BENSON -- One of the worst places for parents to see their child's face is on a milk carton.
But when more than 2,000 children in the U.S. are reported missing each day, how can parents teach their children about avoiding abduction and make the lessons stick?
Just ask third-grade teacher Kathy Ahrndt of Northside Elementary -- she won a $10,000 classroom makeover last month for teaching those lessons to her Benson students.
"In rural Minnesota, we tend to be distant from (child abduction) and yet it has happened here," Ahrndt said. "We've seen it happen in small-town Minnesota."
Ahrndt said she became more aware of this national issue after entering the Got 2B Safe! Contest.
The contest is a national competition organized by Honeywell International Inc. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The annual competition, first organized in 2005, calls for elementary teachers to educate their students about child abduction prevention through creative lesson plans. The contest requires participants to incorporate the Got 2B Safe! Four Rules of Safety into their lesson plans.
Each year, teachers submit their lesson plans and contest officials choose five teachers of the hundreds of applicants for the grand prize: a $10,000 classroom makeover.
Ahrndt said she entered the contest because a colleague, third-grade teacher Julie Carroll of Northside Elementary, had won a $500 gift certificate as a first-prize winner in the 2007 contest.
"Teachers are always looking for ways to get additional funds to buy things for their classrooms," said Ahrndt, a 16-year teacher at Northside Elementary.
After entering the contest, Ahrndt said she watched seven days of the "Deal or No Deal" television show during holiday break before she had an idea for teaching child abduction prevention -- she would create a "Deal or No Deal" game.
With her game, Ahrndt had 15 students hold construction paper briefcases, similar to the TV show, but with child safety scenarios written on them. After reading a scenario aloud, the students would decide whether the situation was a "deal" or "no deal."
Eventually, the students would find the "deal" briefcase with treats for the whole class behind it. Ahrndt said her students were very engaged with the activity and even played the game with first- and second-grade classrooms in the elementary.
"I think as educators, we find more and more that we teach a lot more than math and reading," Ahrndt said about teaching topics like child safety. "We're teaching a lot more of other things."
Once Ahrndt was announced as a grand-prize winner in June, she flew to Washington, D.C., to receive her award and see the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Ahrndt said the visit to the center was an "eye-opening experience."
"You realize a lot while you teach safety tips," Ahrndt said. "There are a lot of kids that get fooled by people, and they don't even realize it until it's too late.
"We care about our kids," Ahrndt said. "And we need to keep them safe."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 797,500 children were reported missing in a recent 12-month period. The department estimates about 2,100 children are reported missing each day.