I’ll bet you have heard that before. And, I know, it is now “Only you can prevent wildfires” but this is how I learned it when I was little. It is a welcome, homecoming type of message for me. I grew up in Smokey Bear country and anything Smokey Bear makes me smile. I remember doing Smokey Bear coloring contests in elementary and marching the Smokey Bear Stampede parade during junior high and high school. We would visit the museum and play at the park. Now, we visit every few years to take the girls and keep them connected to that part of my childhood. You see, my dad use to work for the Forest Service and one of my favorite pictures is him dressed as Smokey holding me.
It is only natural that we do something related to Smokey Bear and fire safety every year. We haven’t done anything recently but this year (actually this Friday) is Smokey’s 70th birthday. Smokey was created as a cartoon to help promote fire safety in the forests. A few years later, a small black bear cub was burned during a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains of NM. After he was rescued and healed, he was adopted as a live symbol for forest fire safety and flown to Washington, D.C., where he lived in the National Zoo.
In honor of Smokey’s 70th birthday, I am sharing a few fun activities that you can do to help promote forest fire (and wildfire) safety.
“With a ranger’s hat and shovel and a pair of dungarees, you can find him in the forest always sniffing at the breeze…”
A fun, cheerful song that we sing often here at our house, it is actually pretty easy to learn. If you search on YouTube, you will find a bundle of options for learning the song. Some of my favorite options for learning the song include:
- A black and white video featuring Eddy Arnold from 1952 (personally, I like this one because it is so authentic)
- the Peter Pan Records version
- NM Forestry Division the sheet music to print, as does
- the West Virginia Division of Forestry
The story of Smokey Bear is, of course, very familiar to me. In order for it to be something the girls know as well, we have copies of the comic book story titled “The True Story of Smokey Bear”. It stays on our non-fiction shelf and the girls pull it out every once in a while. You can download a copy of it from the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
Our library has an easy children’s book available titled The Smokey Bear Story, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I haven’t actually seen this one but we will check it out to see what it is like. Perhaps your library has one as well.
- Smokey Bear has his own educational website. You can find it at http://www.smokeybear.com/. You will find all sorts of downloadable educational information and links to additional resources. There are two levels of materials for students: K-2 and 6-8. The materials are pretty adaptable, though, especially when paired with some of the other links. On SmokeyBear.com you will also find copies of all of the promotional materials from 1944 to present day. There are lots of neat things to look at there.
- The West Virginia Division of Forestry has a lot of different links for activities, as well. This is the place where I had found the song and comic book easiest to access. (See the links above for those.)
- The Special Collections of the USDA has a page with some images of Smokey, his campaigns, and real-life photos. These are interesting to see the different progressions of the promotions and to help reinforce with students that this was a real animal affected by a forest fire.
- There are a number of links on the site for Smokey Bear Historical Park, including a link to the plaque on his grave site, Frequently Asked Questions, and fun pages (including one that has a pumpkin stencil).
- My dad got each of the girls a series of 15 posters (8×10) that depict a number of the different creatures and plants that you can come across in the forest. They are terribly interesting and we will be using them a lot this coming year. They are Forest Service materials and it says on them that they are from Your State Foresters. Perhaps a visit to your local Forest Service may garner you some?
Planning a Visit:
There is a museum, a nature park, and a gift shop (which is the original museum building) at Smokey Bear Historical Park, in Capitan, NM. It is an interesting place to visit and will take you an hour or two to go through.
Smokey Bear Days occurs every year the first Friday and Saturday of May. So, it is a bit late to make a trip for this year but if you are planning for the future, this could be a good time to go.
The New Mexico Legends page (part of the Legends of America page) is another resource for some information on the Smokey Bear Historical Park.
Sign Smokey’s Birthday Card:
Head over to Facebook and sign the birthday card for Smokey. Join others in wishing him a happy birthday. And stick with them, who knows what else you may find out or learn by following Smokey on Facebook.
I hope you enjoy learning about Smokey as I enjoy telling about him. At Home.
Linking up with ABC Blogging at Ben and Me.