Monday, December 14, 2009

Discovering what it's like to be stuck at school

On Thursday last week, a class of 11 & 12-year-old kids from Discovery School in Whitby got a taste of what it would be like to be stuck at school after a major event like an earthquake.

In the week prior I got a few calls from the pupils asking if I could come in and talk to them about emergency stuff during their earthquake simulation day on Friday 11 December. They were going to spend the whole day and overnight at the school living like they would in an emergency. Awesome, I'm in!

However, their teacher, Mr McManaway, had been very sneaky, and gotten to me first. So, in collaboration with the parents, we sprung it all on them a day early! It would hardly be a realistic exercise if the kids have a sleeping bag, a tent, and dinner for four tucked away in their school bag, would it?

10am on the Thursday an earthquake struck while the kids were at phys-ed. The sound system played the realistic rumbles and crashes of an earthquake while the kids dropped, covered and held. Once the aftershocks stopped (the track got stuck on repeat...), we all made our way back to their classroom, and they discovered the wreckage.

Tables upended, bookshelves toppled, possessions strewn across the room, tree branches through the windows, "broken glass" everywhere. Total carnage! It took a good while to get it cleaned up and made liveable again. Because living there was what they were going to have to do - possibly until Saturday morning, which, as far as the kids knew, was when their parents were going to pick them up.

Once they had things tidy, we took stock of the situation. I gave them the run-down on what was expected of the school in such situations, and we all discussed where their parents worked, how long it was likely to take them to get to the school and so on. We had a look at the emergency supplies that were available, and thought about how to ration those. Some kids hadn't had any breakfast, and some had planned to buy lunch so didn't have any food with them at all. There were presentations on emergency food and water, and how to dispose of sewerage in an emergency.

A bit before lunchtime we headed over to the library to discover that the earthquake had affected it as well, and there were injured kids inside who needed their help. I was well impressed by their first aid skills.

I had to head off around lunch time for another meeting, and when I left the kids were still under the impression that they were going to have to use a bucket for a toilet.

I got back shortly after 5pm, and the kids were still being kids, and the teacher was looking slightly frazzled, but nobody had gone cannibal yet. The emergency survival food was dug out for dinner and consumed with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We then sat down to watch the show that screened after Aftershock - the one about the family surviving for three days on their emergency stuff. We thought the kids were probably a bit young to inflict the full movie on them.

The next plan was to sort out all the sleeping arrangements. The kids spent a goodly while building forts and tents out of the available furniture before we decided that, since we had a perfectly intact roof, the curtains would be more use as blankets rather than tents. Some interesting "debates" about group versus individual needs.

The kids had pretty well bedded down for the night by the time I headed off arounf 9:15pm. Their parents were scheduled to pick them up at 10:30, so they could go home to their real beds, and be vaguely functional human beings for school the next day.

A really interesting day!

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