The American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter has launched The Pillowcase Project, a pilot in-school and after-school program to teach third graders and their families how to prepare for disasters. The Oregon Trail Chapter is one of 19 Red Cross chapters that will pilot the program. The program will launch nationwide in January 2014.
Two local schools, Sabin Elementary and Cascade Heights Public Charter School, are the sites where the program is being implemented. The Pillowcase Project curriculum follows three essential teaching steps: learn, practice and share. Students learn how to prepare for emergencies, enhance coping skills, practice what they have learned and share their knowledge with friends and family. The program emphasizes the importance of developing an emergency communications plan, fire evacuation plan and emergency contact cards.
The program also teaches students how to create their own emergency supplies kits by packing essential items in a pillowcase—a common household item—for easy transport during an emergency. Students will have the opportunity to decorate and personalize their pillowcases. Through the program, the Red Cross aims to incorporate preparedness education into elementary school and after-school curriculums nationwide.
Francisco Ianni, director of preparedness for the Cascades Region, oversees Red Cross youth readiness programs throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. He says that the Pillowcase Project is an opportunity to indoctrinate a culture of preparedness in a whole generation and a way to learn about the importance of preparedness in a fun and interactive way. “The hands-on activities will also help to build confidence so that kids are prepared to take action during an emergency,” Francisco said.
Created in New Orleans and sponsored by Disney, the Pillowcase Project was inspired by local university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.