October 5, 2016

Teaching Fire Safety: Free Resources to Spark Learning

This post is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and Sparky.org.

October is National Fire Prevention Month, and Fire Prevention Week starts on October 9th which is right around the corner. What lessons and activities do you have planned for this very important week?

If you’re a K-2 teacher, you probably won't have any trouble answering that question. You might even have your week completely mapped out, with fire safety activities scheduled every day.

But if you teach older kids, you might be thinking, “Fire safety? That’s not in my curriculum. Fire prevention is taught in the early grades. Where would I even get fire safety resources for my grade level?"

As a former 5th grade teacher, I understand where you’re coming from. Upper elementary teachers are expected to cover an incredible amount of academic content, and there's not much time left over for anything else.

However, teaching older kids about fire safety and prevention is important, too. Kids are fascinated with fire, and older kids are more likely to take risks, test the limits, and try things they know they probably shouldn't do. All kids need to be reminded of the dire consequences of playing with fire, and the fact that even a small fire can easily get out of control.

The problem is that older kids need different types of resources than their younger peers, and games and activities that are fun for Kindergarten students just don't appeal to older kids. It's definitely a challenge to find lessons and activities that will capture the interest of older kids. Fortunately, I know where you can find an awesome collection of resources that are sure to "spark" learning!

Free Sparky Fire Safety Resources 
Have you visited Sparky.org or SparkySchoolHouse.org? Sparky the Fire Dog® is the official mascot of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and these two Sparky websites are part of their ongoing public education campaign. Sparky.org is the website for kids with fun games, activities, and interactive resources about fire safety. Sparky School House is the companion site for educators where you can find links dozens of free fire-prevention resources like videos, ebooks, apps, and lesson plans.

The NFPA was founded back in 1896, fifteen years after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and for 120 years this non-profit organization has been on a mission to eliminate fire-related deaths, injury, and damage to property. One of their public education campaigns is Fire Prevention Week, and this year's theme is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.” Right now is the perfect time to check out the wealth of resources on these two sites!

If you’re a K-2 teacher, you probably already know about Sparky.org and Sparky School House, and you've found them to be great resources for teaching fire safety. Your students have probably already played the games on Sparky.org, and maybe you’ve downloaded all of the free apps for kids onto your classroom mobile devices. If you're really on top of your game, you've downloaded the brand new Sparky's Firehouse app, too!

But if you're an upper elementary teacher like me, you might have done what I did when I first discovered the Sparky resources. 

I looked around for about 2 minutes, and then I left. No joke. 

To tell you the truth, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of activities and resources that appeared to be on Sparky School House, and most of them seemed to be for little kids. Let’s be real. Fifth graders don’t want to listen to a person dressed up in a dog costume talking about fire safety, or a cartoon dog demonstrating how to stop, drop, and roll.

It's a shame that I didn’t spend more time on Sparky School House, because I would have discovered that this site DOES have fire safety resources for older kids! You just have to know where to find those resources and the lesson plans that accompany them.

Navigating Sparky School House
Now that I've explored the resources on Sparky School House, I want to teach you how to navigate so you can find everything, too. Click the image below and let me show you around!

After you land on the Sparky School House main page, start by clicking the red download button to access the brand new free 2016 Fire Prevention Week Teacher Guide where you'll find a lesson about the importance of smoke alarms. This guide also includes a take-home home letter for parents in both English and Spanish.

Use the links in the black navigation bar at the top to browse a huge collection of fire prevention videos, apps, ebooks, lesson plans, and resources. The Digital Backpack link is the quickest way to find the teacher lesson plans and printables that go with the resources for students. You can search for lesson plans by grade level or by the resource it accompanies. Each lesson is aligned with Common Core State Standards, too!

Be sure to check out the Learn Not to Burn resources, even if you teach older kids. They're designated as resources for Kindergarten and First Grade, but they have incredibly helpful information for upper elementary teachers, too. If your students lack basic fire safety and prevention knowledge, I recommend reading the Learn Not to Burn lesson plans to find relevant information and then adapt the lesson materials to your own grade level.

My Favorite Upper Elementary Resources
Don't make the mistake that I did of assuming that everything on the site is for little kids. You can adapt some of the lessons that were designed for younger students, and there are also several lessons that are perfect for upper elementary students just as they are. These three are my favorites!

1. Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (Video and Teacher Guide)
I loved this 7-minute, informative video! The subject of the video is an interview between Lauren Tarshis, author of I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, and Casey Grant from the National Fire Prevention Association. They discuss the causes and effects of this devastating fire, how the NFPA was founded, and why Fire Prevention Week always takes place in October. You can download a Common Core aligned lesson plan to go with the video that includes a printable vocabulary graphic organizer. Click the Music & Videos link to find the video, and look in the Lessons section for the related teacher resources.

2. Fire Fighting’s Weird History and Fascinating Future (Video and Lesson Plan)Your students will be delighted by some of the silly facts shared in this video, and they'll also be amazed to learn how much firefighting has changed in the last hundred years. Fire Fighting's Weird History and Fascinating Future uses a mix of cartoon-style drawings, photographs, and historical drawings to look at the past, present, and future of firefighting. You'll also find a Common Core aligned lesson plan to go with the video that includes a Know-Wonder-Learned graphic organizer. Click the Music & Videos link to find the video, and look in the Lessons section for the related teacher resources.  

3. Rescue Dogs, Firefighting Heroes, and Science Facts (Ebook and Curriculum Guide)
The third awesome resource I found for upper elementary is a 15-page ebook that includes four stories and a poem. It's available in several different formats, including a printable PDF, Amazon Kindle, Nook. I love the variety of texts in this resource and the way fire prevention information is integrated throughout the book. Each selection includes discussion questions and a writing prompt, too, which would make the book perfect for small guided reading groups. 

Jack the Superhero Alien Firefighter is a fictional story, The Black Pearl and Captain Ron is an informational text selection about a firefighter and his rescue dog, Three Ways Science Has Made the World a More Fire-Safe Place is an informational science article, and Learning from Tragedy is a historical fiction selection. The final text is a poem called Sparky the Fire Dog® Says “Stay Fire-Safe!”  To find this resource, click on the Read & Play link at the top of Sparky School House, and scroll all the way to the end of the page. You'll find all the links to the different book formats as well as a link to the Common Core aligned Curriculum Guide.

Fire Prevention Week Plans - Done!
Now that you know where to find awesome resources for teaching kids about Fire Prevention Week, your lesson plans for next week will be super easy to write! You can integrate fire safety into just about every subject area, and your lessons are sure to "spark" enthusiasm for learning about fire prevention!

But teaching kids about fire safety might actually have a far more important result. Who knows? You might even save a life!

Did you know that three out of five home fire deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm? Sadly, when smoke alarms fail to operate, it's usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead. Those grim statistics might be why the theme of Fire Prevention Week has been related to smoke alarm safety for the last three years.

Be sure to send home the parent letter that can be found in the 2016 Fire Prevention Week Guide, and follow up a few days later by asking your students what they learned about the condition of the smoke alarms in their homes. Don't forget to check the smoke alarms in your own home, too!


  1. Thank you so much for all of these awesome resources. While I know they are offered free from the website, I truly appreciate you breaking them down and sharing the ones that you found most helpful. If there is something teachers need more than anything it is TIME. You just saved a lot of teachers a bunch of TIME, bless you!

    1. Thank you Karen! Your comment was so validating because that's exactly what I was trying to do. I really enjoy knowing that I'm saving classroom teachers time, and it's comments like yours that keep me going on projects like this. I had fun reviewing this site, but I remember how overwhelming this kind of thing was when I was in the classroom.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.