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Coast Guard makes a splash
Kindergarteners and fourth-graders from Eastside Elementary learn about water rescues.
By Paulette Lash Ritchie, Times Correspondent
Published March 6, 2008
Jeff Brundage, from left, teacher Arlene Tannascoli, Nesward Marfil and Todd Regan talk with students at Eastside Elementary's Freedom Friday class. Marfil, a rescue swimmer with the U.S. Coast Guard, dressed Tannascoli in some of his gear during the presentation.
[Maurice Rivenbark | Times]
[Maurice Rivenbark | Times]
Tannascoli, an Eastside Elementary School fourth-grade teacher, tries on a life vest inflated by Marfil.
After the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, Eastside Elementary School developmental kindergarten teacher Ann Tobin wanted her students to know about the United States. So she created Freedom Friday.
Using funds from a Wal-Mart community grant and a grant from the Hernando County Education Foundation, she has developed a curriculum that incorporates academic, social and emotional growth, while learning to appreciate living in the United States. Her kindergartners have red Freedom Friday T-shirts.
Tobin is including education about the country's military. For Valentine's Day, the children made and sent cards and cookies to the Coast Guard station in Clearwater.
This year, Tobin partnered with Arlene Tannascoli and her fourth-grade class. Both groups recently were treated to a special presentation by three members of the Coast Guard: Petty Officer Jeff Brundage; Todd Regan, aviation maintenance technician; and Nesward Marfil, aviation survival technician.
They kept a media center full of fourth-graders, and later of kindergartners, at quiet attention, broken by an occasional "oooooo" with the demonstrations of the equipment they had brought.
Marfil, who is certified to do water rescues, showed the children two different helmets, one for the helicopter and one for in the water; a wet suit; a dry suit, a warm-looking gray undergarment he called a bunny suit; and other equipment.
The students were thrilled when Marfil helped teacher Tannascoli step into his heavily loaded equipment vest. She also good-naturedly let the men slip flippers on her feet and a helmet on her head, topped with a safety light.
When the floor was opened for questions, the fourth-graders wanted to know:
"What is your best thing about being in the Coast Guard?"
"Helping people," Brundage said.
"Does your job give you stress?"
"At times," Regan said.
"Is your job dangerous?"
"Yes," Regan said, "our job is dangerous, but we do it in the safest way we can."
When it was time for questions with the kindergartners, the officers mostly received comments.
"I can swim in the deep end." A show of hands indicated that most of the children have been in the deep end of a pool.
"My dad's a good swimmer."
"My dad saw a squirrel talk."
As they were getting ready to leave, a few students shared what they had learned and what their favorite parts of the presentation were.
"I learned a lot, 'cause the Coast Guard, I know they risk their lives to save people," said fourth-grader Evangelene Berry, 9. "I liked how my teacher got dressed up and I liked how he demonstrated what he goes in the water with and how they communicate in the helicopter."
Daniel Dakota Crouch, 10, also a fourth-grader, said his favorite thing was "the guy that scuba dived (and) rescues people. He has all types of different gear he has to use." Daniel was impressed with Marfil "getting people out of boats that capsized (and) being in the dark in the water" and the amount of gear Marfil has to wear when he swims.
Kindergartner Dana Coker, 6, was selected to stand up with Marfil, Regan and Brundage and try on the triton harness, which is used to hoist people out of the water. Surrounded by the three officers, she was lifted a few inches off the ground, to the delight of her classmates.