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Young students learn about law enforcement, fire, search and rescue

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Photo by Tamie Meck Search and rescue dog Sprite and owner Jay Rigdon with West Elk Mountain Rescue have an audience during a visit last Friday to Hotchkiss K8 School. They were among several law enforcement and search and rescue organizations that came t

Friday the pre-kindergarten students of the Backpack Early Learning Academy at Hotchkiss K8 School had some very special visitors. At the invitation of their teacher, Lynette Clock, representatives from West Elk Mountain Rescue, Delta County Sheriff's Office, North Fork Ambulance, Colorado State Patrol and Paonia Volunteer Fire Department brought their vehicles and equipment to the school and gave a presentation on what they do for the community.

A highlight of the visit was Jay Rigdon and his dog, Sprite, a search and rescue team with West Elk Mountain Rescue. Rigdon has had Sprite, a 5-year-old lab/border collie cross, since 2012. There are two types of search dogs, explained Rigdon: trailing or tracking dogs, and air scent dogs. Sprite is a certified "Airscent" dog.

To demonstrate Sprite's skills, Rigdon took an item of clothing from a volunteer student and asked the student to hide somewhere on school property. Rigdon then let Sprite smell the article of clothing and told him to search.

In less than five minutes, Sprite found the student huddled in the corner of the baseball dugout.

Students also were given demonstrations of the tools used in firefighting and learned about the personal protective equipment they wear. They also got to sit in a State Patrol car and see how the dash cam works, talk with a deputy sheriff, and check out the inside of an ambulance.

Susanne McCallister with Bella said she and Mrs. Clock appreciate the visit and the effort the organizations put into coming to their classroom. Students will benefit from the experience, she said, because "hands-on learning embeds lessons into the memories of these students. Experiential learning, at this age, is irreplaceable."

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