Last week Val Wade with the Panhandle Health District held a special assembly with the students at Canyon Elementary School.
Each year Wade travels to the various schools throughout the county and discusses the importance of lead awareness and being safe while still enjoying the beautiful area that we live in.
Through pictures, models, and actual heavy metal specimens Wade is able to educate and entertain the students on the very important local issue.
“I show the kids historic photos of the Silver Valley that display how much logging and mining industries impacted the landscape,” Wade said. “The ‘before’ pictures show the kids how much things have changed over the years. Then I remind them that all the things we did in the past still have an impact on our lives today.”
Despite various opinions throughout the Valley, the message to be aware of the dangers of lead poisoning and contamination are very real and Wade takes pride in the fact that she can be the one to educate the kids.
“This might be the first time these kids hear about the dangers of lead and how easy it is to protect themselves,” Wade said. “The presentation isn't supposed to scare them, but get them thinking about how they can prevent themselves from ingesting lead.”
Wade is a bit of an anomaly for her position, she was a geologist for many years working in various mines before taking the job as Shoshone County’s resident dirt cop and getting the opportunity to work with the local youth.
“They proudly tell me stories about how they have family members in the mining industry. I’ll ask the kids to raise their hands if they have a family member that works in a mine and over half the kids usually raise their hands,” Wade said. “I’ll tell them that I too worked in a mine and loved it. I remind them that the mining industry isn't doing the same things now that they did in the past because we have learned from our mistakes and I always try to remind the kids that we are so lucky to live here and it's a beautiful area with really cool history but we have to remember that there may be lead in the dirt where we play.”
Wade particularly likes working with the third grade students, mainly because by third grade they have gotten used to the presentation and are starting to really understand what she is talking about.
But most of all she enjoys seeing how much the kids love where they live.
“I love how active these kids are,” Wade said. “If I ask, ‘how many of you go camping?’ They all raise their hands. They love the outdoors and when I hold up rocks or talk about the mountains, their faces light up.”
Wade has only been doing the presentation for the last two years, but Panhandle Health has been working with the students since 1985.
By the end of the school year Wade will have talked to nine different schools and a total of 926 kids.
Panhandle Health also give the kids a lunch bag with a water bottle, nail brush, coloring book, crayons and health information for their parents.