Mt. Vernon Register-News

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April 19, 2014

Bethel students learn about water safety

MT. VERNON — Bethel Grade School students Wednesday were treated to a unique presentation on water safety that featured a talking robotic sea serpent.

Combining comedy with safety tips, the program was meant to teach kids “the basics” of how to stay safe in and around the water. It was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The robot jokes around and gets a few laughs out of the kids, and then I try to get a couple of important points across,” said presenter Mike Edwards, a ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers. “We just do it as a service to the public.”

More than 100 pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students at Bethel attended Wednesday’s program, which took place in the school’s gymnasium.

Edwards was the main presenter and Ranger Tim Bischoff operated the robot and provided its voice. Most of the jokes were delivered by Bischoff through the robot.

“He’s the straight man,” Bischoff said of Edwards.

The Army Corps of Engineers has used the robot for school presentations for about 14 years. Its name is Seamoor, the Water Safety Sea Serpent.

Currently, however, the robot is going by the name of Uncle Si-moor, since the theme of this year’s program is “Duck Dynasty.” Si is a character on that popular TV reality show.

Edwards and Bischoff covered a wide range of topics during Wednesday’s program, including how to assist a drowning person, the importance of wearing a life-jacket, why you should never swim alone, picking a safe place to swim and more.

Edwards pulled several kids from the audience to assist him in his demonstrations. The students were asked to portray drowning victims while Edwards demonstrated how to provide assistance.

Craig Kujawa, superintendent of Bethel, said water safety programs like this are held periodically at the school, usually in the spring time as the weather starts improving.

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