Third graders try out interview skills on city firefighters

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Matthew Whaley Third grader Braylon Love interviews Senior Firefighter Douglas Bailey. (Courtesy Eric Stone.)
Matthew Whaley Third grader Braylon Love interviews Senior Firefighter Douglas Bailey. (Courtesy Eric Stone.)

The men and women of the Williamsburg Fire Department make their living fighting the city’s fires, but firefighting is not the only impact they make in the community.

Williamsburg firefighters joined Katie Plum’s third grade classroom at Matthew Whaley Elementary School Tuesday, Nov. 15 to be interviewed by students.

“They were really excited to have us in,” said Senior Firefighter Douglas Bailey.  “They see the fire station and see the trucks, and I think for kids they’re excited to sit down and have conversations with us.”

Tuesday was the fourth year Plum had invited firefighters to her classroom, and she said that the event was a collaboration between her and Public Information Officer Eric Stone.

“We designed these interviews to connect these students to the course material,” said Plum. “It’s about building relationships between children and firefighters and making relevant connections between our curriculum and real life.”

Firefighters from the Williamsburg Fire Department were treated to an early Thanksgiving meal before meeting with students at Matthew Whaley Elementary. (Courtesy Eric Stone.)
Firefighters from the Williamsburg Fire Department were treated to an early Thanksgiving meal before meeting with students at Matthew Whaley Elementary. (Courtesy Eric Stone.)

Plum said the questions focused on math and science, and how firefighters use math and science skills in their line of work. 

For example, one question posed to a firefighter was if and how they use rounding and estimation on the job. Plum said a firefighter who was asked the question said he uses rounding and estimating skills when determining the length of the hose needed to connect the firetruck to a hydrant.

“The whole concept was the teacher had come up with questions about what they were learning in school and how we as firefighters apply it to our daily lives,” said Lieutenant Trey Phaup.  “It really put it in perspective. ‘Oh, I do really need to pay attention in math class because I’ll need to know this later in life.’”

The third graders wrote letters to the firefighters that were delivered to the station. Some letters contained additional questions, while others thanked them for visiting the school, said Phaup.   Phaup added that he had fun bragging to his colleagues because the letter he received said he was “the best and coolest guy ever!”

“I think it’s been overwhelmingly positive,” said Plum. “They’ve been able to relate their learning back to conversations they’ve had with firefighters. Because every child had different interview questions every child has something different to share in the conversation. Every child can feel like a leader in sharing their information.”

A letter sent to Lieutenant Trey Phaup by a Matthew Whaley Elementary third grade student. (Courtesy Eric Stone.)
A letter sent to Lieutenant Trey Phaup by a Matthew Whaley Elementary third grade student. (Courtesy Eric Stone.)

While Plum emphasized the educational benefits for her students, the firefighters believe the experience was beneficial for the department as well.

“Sometimes we forget that little kids look up to us,” said Phaup. “We go in there and they’re so excited to talk to us. It’s a really cool time for us and a breath of fresh air to see the excitement.”

“It’s just as good for us to spend time with the kids as it is for the kids to spend time with us.”