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Officer Phil Safety Program uses magic, puppets to emphasize safety, positive behaviors

Mike McDade and Turbo the Turtle  speak about safety as part of Officer Phil Safety Program at Howard Elementary School on Thursday.
Mike McDade and Turbo the Turtle speak about safety as part of Officer Phil Safety Program at Howard Elementary School on Thursday. CDT photo

Camden Comly spun the “Wheel of Safety,” and the red marker landed on the topic of internet safety.

When asked if he would agree to meet a stranger whom he — in a hypothetical scenario — met online, the 10-year-old boldly said “no.”

Internet safety was one of a handful of topics discussed Thursday at an assembly at Howard Elementary School hosted by The Officer Phil Safety Program and sponsored by the Bellefonte Police Department.

The Officer Phil Safety Program is a national initiative aimed at school-aged children that spreads awareness about internet safety, stranger danger, respect and bullying.

Mike McDade, who calls himself an “edutainer,” traveled Wednesday and Thursday to elementary schools in the Bald Eagle and Bellefonte area school districts with the goal of educating youth about safety and respect through a presentation using magic and puppets.

“It’s our way to educate kids in a fun way that they’re going to retain that information,” McDade said.

Bringing the program to the school enhances the district’s overall mission, Howard Elementary Principal Skip Pighetti said.

“We were approached in August about bringing it here, and it made a lot of sense,” Pighetti said. “I’ve seen it done at other schools and there is a great response from the kids.”

First-grader Lilly Nyman, 7, said she does her best to be kind and respectful to her classmates and teachers. For listening and doing good deeds, she regularly earns “soaring eagle tickets” that can be turned in for prizes.

“We’re told to do things like slide down the slide feet first,” Lilly said. “I do that and listen a lot.”

Pighetti said his school promotes positive behavior, and gives incentives to those students who are respectful, responsible and kind.

For those who need a little help, Pighetti said, he and his staff do the best they can to teach by good example, instead of showing what not to do.

“We’re all about being encouraging and rewarding for good and positive behavior,” Pighetti said.

On Thursday before the show, 4th grader Kyleigh Maye and 1st grader Miley McCloskey won a pizza party with the principal.

“It’s cool for them,” Pighetti said. “Yeah, I run the school, but I’m also a little goofy.”

The Officer Phil Program also visited Bellefonte, Mountaintop Area and Port Matilda elementary schools.

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