by Caitlin Huston
Reading about the adventures of a fictional policeman and his dog, Logansport Police Officer Danny Farris taught Landis Elementary kindergarten students Tuesday about the importance of sticking with friends and staying safe.
Farris began working full-time in the Logansport elementary schools at the beginning of January as part of the new Police And Teachers Helping Students, or PATHS, program. The program aims to build positive relationships between the police and elementary students, while also teaching safety tips and lessons.
Each month this semester, Farris will spend one week at each of Logansport’s four elementary schools. He splits his time between eating lunch with students, going to gym classes, reading with kindergarten through third graders and teaching lesson plans to fourth and fifth graders.
Logansport Police Chief Mike Clark said he wanted to bring the program to the elementary schools as a way of reviving former youth programs and reconnecting youth with policemen.
“It’s wonderful to have a program where you can build a rapport with kids,” Clark said.
This first month, Farris said he’s just trying to get to know as many students and teachers as possible, even if that means just sitting with a student and talking about their day.
“That’s one of our goals,” Farris said. “To get them to trust the police.”
Eventually, Farris said he’ll introduce lesson plans on topics like cyber-bullying and computer safety.
Farris said he’s also working to make the lesson plans interactive, like in one activity where students will learn about kind words versus mean words. After the lesson, each students’ photograph will then be placed on a T-Shirt and the students will be asked to write positive comments about themselves in a speech bubble on the shirt.
The students are also working to come up with a design for a large decal to be placed on Farris’s squad car.
The police department is currently funding the program and Clark said they’ll be looking for grants in the future to continue funding.
After greeting students in the hallway and answering questions about police on television shows, Farris said he believes it’s beneficial for the students to actually interact with a police officer.
“A lot of the kids, the only time they see the police is on TV,” Farris said.
Farris, who has been with the police department for 20 years, says he also enjoys working with the students.
“I love it,” Farris said. “I like working with kids.”
Since Farris’s visit at the school, Andie Nicoles, school counselor at Fairview Elementary and Franklin Elementary, said students have been excited for his next visit.
“The kids have been pretty responsive about it,” Nicoles said.
Nicoles said Farris are also acting as mentors for students who are struggling in school or being bullied.
“Just being another person in their life to give positive feedback,” Nicoles said.
At Landis Elementary, Assistant Principal Patti Wolf said the program has been a great way for students to become familiar with the police.
“It’s everything that we had hoped it would be,” Wolf said.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.