Jennifer Schultze is a passionate educator and teacher at Wyoming Virtual Academy.
This year our elementary staff hosted an assembly to share about the Hug-a-Tree Program. This program was designed to give students safety tips for when we are outdoors enjoying our beautiful state here in Wyoming. Many of our families hunt, hike and spend lots of time outdoors. Anyone can get lost, not just kids! After the assembly many students shared that what they learned was not only helpful and relevant, but can also save their lives.
Lorrie Anderson, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and is currently employed as the Victim Services Coordinator for the Natrona County Sheriffs Office in Casper, Wyoming, was our guest speaker. In addition working with law enforcement on her day job, she has volunteered for the Wyoming Search and Rescue Association as their K9 Chair for many years and currently certifies dogs around the state. She is a Lead Evaluator and instructor for the National Search and Rescue Association (NASAR) and has helped in certifying over 600 Wyoming search and rescue volunteers to date. They send in helicopters from all over the country and pick her up to have her help with searches, because she is THAT good at what she does.
We were very honored and fortunate to have Lorrie share her expertise and this valuable safety information with WYVA. Her K9 companion also joined her as she presented to us, which our students LOVED.
Faye Hall, a WYVA elementary teacher of the past eight years, shared the inspiration behind the Hug-A-Tree Assembly and her passion in making sure we educated our students: “There have been some lost kids this summer in Wyoming, and each call we are on pins and needles until we hear that the child is found and returned safely home. So, because our kiddos are out and about and enjoy the outdoors so much, I thought this would be a good safety training for them. And kids are not only ones that get lost. The only time I was truly lost was as an adult. It can happen to anyone.”
The Hug-a-Tree Program is in most states in public schools. This is the first time it has been taken to online education and we were excited to pilot it at WYVA!
Here are just a few things that our students said they learned in our assembly:
· Dogs are taken in for students to meet and understand that the dogs will not hurt them – they are all very friendly.
· These types of dogs are trained and know they are looking for someone, so to find that someone at the end, they are excited and happy. That is their reward. They are trained for that reward. We do not want kids to be afraid or hide from them.
· The dogs want to find them and help them.
· The helicopters flying over should not be scary either – we use them. The quicker we find a lost person, the better.
· No one is going to get into trouble because they need help or got lost.
· If you get lost, hug a tree – stay put! Let the searchers come for you. They will be able to find you much faster if you stay in one place.
· We want kids to know people care about them and are out looking for them and want to find them quickly.