Going to the Mat: Grant Champions Fire Safety at School

PE Teacher Jonathan Barber and WEE Students receive a Bright Ideas Education Grant from Randolph Electric Membership Corporation. Photo courtesy of the Bright Ideas Grant.


Along with their ABCs and 1-2-3s, West End Elementary students will soon have new equipment to assist in learning how to S.D.R. — or, “stop, drop and roll.”

School PE teacher Jonathan Barber recently received a $600 Bright Ideas Education Grant for padded tumbling mats that will help children at West End Elementary practice fire safety techniques in a safe environment.

The stop, drop and roll technique is part of the NC Healthful Living Standards Barber teaches to K-5th graders.

“Even if a student is in a grade where that objective isn’t currently taught, I could implement “refresher” courses to refine their skills and ensure they are prepared if confronted with a fire-related emergency.”

In his grant application, Barber cites some alarming statistics. Of all reported fires between 2014-2018, 27 percent occurred in homes. And home fires caused 77 percent of civilian fire deaths and 73 percent of all reported injuries.

“We never know when life will present us with an emergency situation,” said Barber. “This is a lifelong skill that can prepare you for specific fire emergencies and equip you with the knowledge and skills to teach others throughout life.”

Stop, Drop and Roll Refresher

STOP: Do not run and do not wave arms. Running makes the fire bigger by supplying more oxygen. 

DROP: Drop to the ground and put hands over face for protection.

ROLL: Roll back and forth until the fire is completely out.

Barber will use the new padded tumbling mats in conjunction with ones currently in use to instruct large groups how to safely execute the stop, drop and roll maneuver. The mats are a good investment because, if properly cared for, they can last over a decade. Thousands of students and staff will benefit from their use and learn how to stop, drop and roll. 

This fire safety grant is the third Bright Ideas Education Grant received by the West End Elementary PE program.The grant was first awarded in 2013 for mathematical badminton. Another grant was awarded in 2020 for a Step-Up program. 

Barber credits the grant program, sponsored by Randolph Electric Membership Corp., with providing funds to purchase equipment used and enjoyed by thousands of students over the years. This grant will cover about 75 percent of the cost of the new mats.

When Barber, who has been teaching at WEE for over 12 years, learned the school had received the grant for a third time, he felt ecstatic.

“PE equipment is expensive, so having local companies help invest in the equipment benefits the students,” he said. “And that’s what it’s all about — giving the students the tools they need to be successful and introducing them to new activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Students will also use the mats for endless uses including fitness, fitness assessment, yoga, weight training and more.

“Mr. Barber works diligently to always do what is best for students,” said Principal Katie Lockamy of the teacher who was once a WEE student himself. “He seeks out opportunities to provide a stellar physical education program for our WEE Warriors. This is a small example of all the hard work and diligence Mr. Barber puts into his instruction.”

The grant fits in with the school’s larger focus this year.

“One of our main focuses this school year has been on safety,” said Lockamy. This grant will provide materials that will take the typical fire safety lessons to the next level. We are extremely proud of all that Mr. Barber is doing for WEE.”

Contact Maggie Beamguard at maggie@thepilot.com.