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Sammy the Sasquatch teaches young PPS students how to be safe

By Connor McCarthy

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — With an increasing focus on security at K through 12 schools across the country, districts, like Portland Public Schools (PPS) are exploring new ways to teach their youngest students about difficult safety procedures such as lockdowns.

Meet Sammy the Sasquatch, the main character of the children’s story Sammy and Friends. In the book, Sammy teaches her friends about a wide range of safety skills like how to cross the road in a crosswalk and what to wear when riding a bike. But Sammy does more, Claire Maire, creator of Sammy and Friends, said Sammy also tells a story of how to do a lockdown in a way that it’s not scary.

“Occasionally a human accidentally walks into Crittertopia and they do a lockdown,” Marie said. “Locks lights out of sight.”

Maire is a native Oregonian and created Sammy the Sasquatch to help schools and parents teach safety skills, like lockdowns, in a trauma-informed experience. At Faubion School in Northeast Portland on Tuesday, PPS counselors practiced using Sammy and Friends to help students understand lockdowns and why they might happen during the school day.

“A lot of times in the media it’s tied to active shooter drills,” Marie said. “Lockdown drills are not active shooter drills. So we’re just really trying to teach kids how to do this action to keep them safe without frightening them, which is important to me.”

Marie said what better way to teach students about lockdowns than with an animal who’s good at hiding.

“Have you ever seen a sasquatch out in the forest?” Marie said. “She’s ideal for locks lights out of sight because sasquatches are so good at being out of sight.”

Marquita Guzman is the PPS Student Success and Health Department Program Administrator. She’s already seeing Sammy the Sasquatch having a positive impact on students during the first day of training.

“A lot of our counselors use puppets and avatars to talk about difficult subjects,” Guzman said. “So I think it fits well in the counselor wheelhouse. I think with Sammy, kids are excited to see that I think it helps them understand the story of how to keep them safe.”

“It’s important to teach kids to keep themselves safe because if they’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t help themselves that’s a really bad place to be in,” Marie said. “So we always want them to understand they’re contributing constantly to the safe world around them and this one of the ways they contribute to that safe world.”

PPS said after training the counselors will go back to their schools and implement the curriculum at the nearly 60 campuses that house Pre-K through 2nd grade. Maire said other districts have been using Sammy and Friends in their classroom and she hopes other districts do the same.

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