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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review of "Wanna Be - When I Grow Up I Want to be a Firefighter"

Attention grabbing front cover


This week we had the pleasure of trying out and reviewing the “WannaBe™-When I Grow Up I Want to be a Firefighter” unit put out by The Old Schoolhouse MagazineI received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it for Schoolhouse Review Crew, however the opinions expressed are my personal, honest opinions. The Old Schoolhouse's "Wanna Be - When I Grow up I want to be a Firefighter" can be purchased for $8.95 at this link.

This is the first product I have used by The Old Schoolhouse and was very happy with it. In the past I have read articles out of the magazine but I was not aware of the fact they actually had unit studies for purchase and can be purchased at The Old Schoolhouse Store.

We received the unit to review and use on a Tuesday and I took the rest of the week to actually sit and study the materials. The first thing I noticed is there's a plethora of information put together nice and neatly in the 82 page ebook with a table of contents that highlights topics for study. The addition of the table of contents was very nice as most unit studies that we have used in the past do not have one and I tend to have to search for the page/topic we left off on. The table of contents neatly corresponds with the page number of the start of each section which makes it perfect for a not so organized mom like myself to go straight the page I need and pick up where we left off.

Another thing to note right away, before digging into the actual content was the bright colorful picture on the front of the unit with six smiling firefighters. I know they say “Don't judge a book by it's cover” but when you're dealing with two first graders, sometimes the cover art is very important. In this case, the picture was enough to grab my kid's attention and provide a great conversation starter to bring us into the lessons. I especially like the fact that there were firefighters of both sexes shown so both Garrett and Ashleigh could have someone to relate to. We were also able to incorporate the cover photo into part of our discussion, as I will explain in a few.

As said, before sitting down and starting this unit with my kids (both being 1st grade) I took a few days to review the materials includes. There is a lot included for the price ($8.95) and you definitely get the bang for your buck. There are many activities included to tie into the lessons such as a word find, a crossword puzzle, mathematics problems, copy work and fill in the blank vocabulary pages. Many of these pages I could tell would be too advanced for my kids but the introduction page does state this unit is mostly geared for students ages 4-10 so I do think that some of the activities would be better for students in higher grades (maybe grades 4 or 5). Some of the main themes of discussion are the history of firefighting, firefighting equipment, the requirements to become a firefighter and how much they make, as well as information in regards to building safety codes and technological advancements in fire fighting such as the use of robots. Some of the more advanced topics (such as about robots) also include ideas for science experiments or projects to incorporate with the discussion.

I decided to present the material of this unit to my kids over the course of three days and I found this to be a reasonable time frame to cover almost all of what is included in the material on the level appropriate for my kids. Much of the information presented also gives a great platform for more independent exploration (and a bit of fun). For example: during the topic of the history of the fire departments, we talked about the “Bucket
Bucket Brigade of the Colonial Era
Brigade”. We were able to find a great youtube video in regards to “Firefighting in the Colonial Era” which showed the bucket brigade and we were able to easily extend the discussion beyond what was covered and discussed how the men were on once side of the line, the women and children on the other and why that would have been (the full water buckets being heavier and easier for men to handle). This also made for a great “fun” activity as we compared an empty bucket to a bucket full of water and the kids then pretended they were tossing the buckets of water onto a fire. When talking about fire equipment, the kids got to pretend they were firefighters in the front yard and battled a “fire” with our garden hose. When discussing how the firefighters live in the firehouse for 24 hours at a time and cook, clean and sleep there, we also returned to our previous discussion on nutrition and the food groups and talked about how the firefighters had to eat healthy foods such as lots of fruits, vegetables and proteins in order to stay strong to meet the physical needs of their job. Mom also threw in some good ole pushups into the mix when talking about the physical fitness standards and the daily training they needed. And remember that cover photo? Well, after watching a video that talked about the firefighter's gear, the kids learned to recognize the Fire Chief and the Fire Captains by their helmet color so they of course wanted to go back and see what color helmets the firefighters on the cover were wearing and pointed out the Chief (the one holding the white helmet).

Heavy Bucket of Water
While some of the topics we did skim over as I felt it was a bit advanced for my kids, such as the information about general salaries throughout the country, these types of topics were very few and far between and I felt the kids were able to grasp most of the material (at least on a basic level) and they were able to
Putting out the Fire
answer most of the questions presented in the quiz section of the unit. Overall, I feel this unit indeed provided enough material to be considered enriching even at their younger age. I also feel it is a great resource to visit later down the road as they get older and could understand the more advanced ideas such as wages and about the history of fire insurance and will try to return to it again when they are probably around grade 5.

I do highly suggest that outside material be used when using this unit with younger students. It is a great platform on its own but using other resources such as youtube videos or photos off the internet will really help to get the ideas across, especially for younger students or those who learn more visually then by being read to. Together we watched videos of “A Day in the Life of a Firefighter”, videos of firefighters actually battling fires, listened to fire truck sirens and looked at photographs of the old horse drawn fire trucks which made what we were talking about really click. There's also a great video of Wilshire the fire dog (who's history is a point of discussion in the unit) online as well.
Horse Drawn Fire Truck

Overall, I was very happy with the unit and would definitely look into purchasing the other units of this series in the future. (Other available units include A Doctor, A Chef, A Missionary, and A Pilot among others). The material was clear, concise and accurate and presented nicely in a format that is easy to follow. With a bit of imagination, this unit could easily be extended to cover a week or two by also incorporating activities from other subjects, like we did with the discussion about the food groups or physical fitness. I think when I revisit it, I might plan a small obstacle course for the kids to run and pick up a firehouse cookbook and let them prepare and eat like a firefighter.




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