This year I was told that my school would be participating in the statewide Fire Prevention Poster Contest by my superviosr. I would be one of the schools included this year in this annual event and that I would be submitting posters for this contest, a district wide event! My supervisor stressed the fact that ‘even if we save one childs life, the contest was worth it’. At this point, I silently rolled my eyes and agreed to the demand. This year I was basically ‘told’ that I would have to participate in the Fire Prevention Contest, held all over the United States, to encourage students to understand the importance of fire prevention. Before beginning the lesson, I was not very happy that I was being ‘forced’ into teaching this lesson to all my 4th & 5th grade students, a lesson that would take a minimum of 3 hours of art instruction. For years, as a new teacher I participated in the contest, spending countless hours discussing and helping my students to execute a successful poster design. It had basically become a tradition and each year the folder appeared in my mailbox, complete with enough bookcovers for all students and a few posters of last years winners. Many years ago, after tiring of the process of waiting for the fire marshall to finally come and pick up the posters, and convinced that I had spent too much teaching time on a poster contest, I quit participating. Each fall my principal would place the letter in my mailbox asking me if we were going to participate and each year I’d say ‘no’ and it was over. This year was different! At a department art meeting my supervisor informed all of us that our superintendent would like all Many years ago, I threw out all the past examples of posters I had accumulated over the years, the ‘past winners’. I saw no reason to save them at that point, convinced I would never participate again. So this year, I had to come up with some motivation. Thank goodness for the internet, filled with an endless array of fire prevention posters and fire safety ideas. I copied and pasted a slew of examples into a powerpoint for my classes, sharing it only after we had all had rough drafts started and had brainstormed and discussed various ways we could prevent fires from occuring. My students share stories of small fires that had almost started in their home, mostly in the kitchen, pots not watched on the stove that burnt to a crisp. We talked about the annoying beeps that a smoke detector sounds when its time to change the batteries. I read them some sheets that we delivered to us by the fire marshall, good starting points for discussions. After the hour of discussing and sketching ideas, my students were excited! They were looking forward to next week to work again on their ideas. Surprisingly I too learned some fire prevention tips and told my students that I too learn something new everyday. I’ve decided to take the ornamental wooden cutting board, a gift from an exchange Russian student well over 10 years ago, off of the ledge of my stove, just in case it should slip and ignite on the stove top. Only one of my students had an inappropriate fire prevention story. John’s hand quickly shot up as I asked the students if they had any stories about fire and safety. He started with ‘yeah, at the bar that my dad works at’ and I knew I was going to be in trouble! He continued ‘yeah, a drunk guy tripped over the cords for the band that were running across the floor for the band. Yeah, but the good thing was my dad had used lots of duct tape to hold them down so the drunk guy didn’t do too much damage!’ Well, you can imagine how many giggles were heard across the 5th grade art room. I did remind John that he could have told the story in another way, making it more appropriate for school, and he nodded ‘yeah, ok’, still grinning and nodding his head. Today was class two on the poster contest, and my 5th grade students entered the door, eager and excited ‘Are we going to work on our posters today?’ I am truly shocked! A lesson, small in size compared to most of our art, simple in construction with few steps was exuding a genuine excitement. Many had new slogans that they had developed over the last week at home. Some sketches changed from last week and within a short time of review all my students were heavily engaged. They enjoyed the powerpoint of fire prevention posters from all over the country, observing and with a group critic. Pencils, rulers and 12×18 white paper, I do admit this lesson is much more low key than what we are accumstomed too in the art room, but all in all, I think it will be a success. So no more bucking the system, from now on the ‘Fire Prevention Poster Contest’ will be carried on, with enthusiasm , pride and new learning!