Partnering for Resilience: An Innovative Approach to Hazard Education and Child-Centered Risk Reduction

March 2019 (VOL. 37, NO. 1)

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Our study engaged graduate students enrolled in a Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) course designated as Academic Community Engagement (ACE) at an Institution of Higher Education (IHE) in rural Texas. The aim of ACE courses is to employ the scholarly endeavors of facilitating academic content and strengthening transversal competencies of learners to provide needed services in situ to communities in which the IHE is anchored. The study leveraged a nongovernmental (NGO) child-centered risk reduction initiative called the Pillowcase Project: Learn, Practice, Share by the American Red Cross (ARC) in a community with high social vulnerability. Our students taught the ARC initiative to 3rd graders. We envisioned our study to serve as a template for HSEM educators whose objectives were to (a) adopt child-centered risk reduction in contextualized teaching for post-secondary students of disaster, (b) highlight integrative, collaborative processes involved in emergency preparedness and disaster training through experiential learning; (c) engage graduate HSEM students in critical thinking with respect to complex networks of agencies involved in hazards education and with respect to existing risk-reduction educational initiatives, and (d) leverage social capital of IHEs by providing information on hazards and clear action steps grade school children and households can take in an emergency. We assessed the impact of graduate student-delivered, childcentered risk reduction education through in-class observations, children quizzes (N = 117), Pillowcase Household Surveys (34% return rate), and graduate student reflection logs (N = 14). Our findings offer support that child-centered risk reduction education might influence households to be more likely to consider adjustments such as smoke detector installations and inspections. Moreover, experiential teaching methodology applied highlighted students’ ability to critically assess HSEM concepts and generate field recommendations for better practice.