Tri County students began their second semester last week. However, mathematics notes and literature lectures were nowhere to be found.
Instead, middle and high school students learned self-defense, how to change a tire, and how to grill over charcoal.
Tri County kicked off the calendar year with a two-day life skills event, allowing students to gain experience in areas they wouldn’t learn about in a conventional classroom.
Principal Matthew Uher said the school sat Thursday and Friday for the event to broaden the academic horizons of its students. The first day consisted of hour-long clinics in self-defense, pet care, sewing, grilling, auto care, fire rescue and an escape room experience.
On Friday, the students learned ukulele, took a class on personal care, worked with robots in a maker space, did yoga and learned techniques for successful living.
Uher said he hopes the life skills event will give kids vital experience in areas that have direct, real world applications while potentially sparking interest in a future hobby or career choice.
“We want to give our kids a broader outlook on life,” Uher said, “School can be so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.”
Bryson Hacker, a Freshman at Tri County said the experience had been a welcome change of pace from the day to day of school life.
“It’s better than being in a normal classroom,” Hacker said.
Uher said the idea for the event came when the school received a partial grant from the state for career and technical education. He said this money helped provide a plasma cutter and 3D printer for Tri County, and when school officials saw the short week on the calendar, they decided they could use the funds to create the life skills experience.
Uher said it was important for Tri County to have this event because the school lacks a home economics or family consumer science program where students might normally receive this type of education.
The school surveyed students in mid-October with about 20 options for clinic topics. The students chose the list, and then administrators worked diligently to iron out the logistics for the event. They were proud to involve local businesses, allowing the community to be a part of the fun.
Uher said he was confident that the event was going over well with students, and that it provided fun and educational value. He said he was also hopeful about the long-term impact the experience could have.
“If kids take one nugget of information from today, I’m happy,” Uher said.
Uher said many of the skills the students were learning were the sort of thing adults often take for granted. For students, however, these skills could provide valuable knowledge in the future.
Beatrice Public Schools held a breakfast and welcome back for teachers and staff on Monday morning at the Hevelone Center.
“It’s 2019 and we are on the next phase of the journey,” said BPS Superintendent Jason Alexander. “The first part of the year has gone much faster than I imagined.”
Gayle Sutter with Continuum Employee Assistance Program spoke to the staff at the event about the services and resources that would available if the Beatrice Public Schools chooses to utilize an EAP.
“Keeping people happy and productive at home, work and in life is our focus,” said BHS Principal Jason Sutter. “We offer several resources in counseling and problem solving, legal services and financial services.”
Dr. Johanne Owens-Nausler of Lincoln provided entertainment and encouragement as the keynote.
“I have a number of initials behind my name on my business card and am the past president of almost everything, but nobody here cares,” she said. “I would encourage you to put LBWA on your cards behind your name. It means ‘Learning By Wandering Around.’
“I live and teach by ten simple rules. What I want you to remember is everyone has their own story and we don’t know what these kids have experienced since they left us in December. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up. But you need to take care of yourself, first. There’s a reason that flight attendants tell us to put our own mask on before helping others.”
Students will return to classes on Tuesday at Beatrice Public Schools. Owens-Nausler added that caring and compassion should always be a top priority.
“Care for those around you and tell them you appreciate them. You don’t know how long you will have them,” Owens-Nausler said. “I’m a big advocate of fitness and learning while you’re moving. We need to change the energy in our rooms.”
For the past 45 years the city of Beatrice has been buying properties in areas around the Big Blue River.
To date, 120 properties have been purchased by the city to use as green space, and FEMA recently took notice.
The properties are part of the city’s flood mitigation plan in which it buys properties to use as parks, ball fields or just green space to minimalize the risk of costly damage when floods strike.
Beatrice’s success with flood mitigation was the topic of a recent FEMA podcast that discussed what the city has done, and how other communities can learn from what’s occurred in Gage County.
“You always like being recognized for actions you’ve taken and the city of Beatrice should be proud that it’s seen nationally as one of the leaders in flood mitigation,” said City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer. “It’s been a long process that started clear back in the 1970s and continues through today, but the city, mayor and council members over the years need to be proud of those actions.”
Gage County Emergency Management Director Lisa Wiegand said the podcast has received international attention and is something area residents should explore to learn how city planning saves money.
“It’s a featured podcast that talks about the mitigation funds that the federal agency has given to the city of Beatrice as they make the purchases to get some of those flood plain areas cleaned up and then turned to parks and recreational areas,” she said. “That acquisition is a proactive measure for the mitigation portion of it and how those funds are being measured.”
Tempelmeyer, along with FEMA mitigation planner Laurie Bestgen and Katie Ringland with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, were guests on the 20-minute episode, which can be listed to for free on FEMA’s website. "Beatrice Nebraska; Successful Disaster Mitigation" is episode 26.
Tempelmeyer said in addition to reducing damage by buying properties – It was stated on the podcast that every $1 spent on properties can save $6 in the event of a flood – those properties have been put to good use and now include two of the largest parks and the Scott Street ball fields.
“Lives, homes and businesses are no longer at risk,” Tempelmeyer said on the podcast. “The water floods these open space areas and when it recedes, life can go on as usual without much interruption.”
The episode recaps Beatrice’s history of flooding over the years, which has included one major flood roughly every 10 years. In addition to reducing property damage, Tempelmeyer pointed out the manpower savings in the rescue and law enforcement departments.
Tempelmeyer said there are remaining properties the city would like to eventually own, but the process is a long one and it can be easy to put flood planning in the back of your mind during dry times.
“When you’re buying a property during a drought or dry period it’s hard to remember the flood that occurred six years ago, or even six months ago, and how that will save the city and taxpayers money in the future,” he said. “Going back and having the opportunity to review that history through the podcast, you see how those actions have made a big difference going forward.”