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Teaching Elementary Students About Fire Safety Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-SFY0013
Submitted by: Brian F. Geiger, EdD
School/University/Affiliation: University of Alabama at Birmingham – School of Education Date: September 10, 1998

Grade Level(s): 2, 3


  • Health/Safety

Description: Elementary school children can learn about environmental health and safety using instructional resources provided by the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. This lesson is ideal for students beginning Scouting or 4-H programs. Combining didactic instruction with creative games increases learners’ participation and knowledge.

Goals: The purpose of this exercise is to teach elementary school students basic information about environmental health and fire safety.

Objective(s): There are three objectives for learners:

1. Each student will play a circle game using safe and unsafe campfire facts
2. Each student will act out a read-aloud story about forest animals
3. Each student will understand how forestry, park, and recreation personnel help to protect our environment.


  • Happy 50th Smokey Bear! A Learning Kit about Forests and Fire Safety for Grades K-3 (USDA, 1993)
  • colored 3X5 and 4X6 index cards
  • colored sheets of posterboard
  • two brown paper grocery bags
  • glue or tape
  • illustrations of forest animals and a fire.
  • Procedure:

    1. Prior to the class session, write each of the actions listed below onto a colored index card.
    (Do not label each one as Safe or Unsafe.)
    2. Mix up the index cards. Decorate two brown paper grocery bags using illustrations selected from magazines, posters, clip art, or student-created artwork.
    3. Glue or tape forest scenes with animals onto one bag. Label it Fire Safety.
    4. Glue or draw a fire scene onto the other bag. Label it Unsafe.
    5. Draw illustrations of smiling and frowning faces onto colored sheets of posterboard.

    List of Safe Actions

    • Be sure a grownup watches the campfire.
    • Be sure the fire is out before leaving.
    • Only a grownup should put out the campfire.
    • Clear a 10-foot circle of safety around the campfire.
    • Have water handy at the campfire.
    • If you spot a wildfire, tell a grownup.
    • Have a grownup build the campfire on level ground.
    • Keep the campfire small.
    • Give matches to a grownup.

    List of Unsafe Actions

    • Play near the campfire.
    • Leave the campfire before it’s out cold.
    • Wear loose clothing near the campfire.
    • Build the campfire under low branches.
    • Build the campfire on a hillside.
    • Let the fire go out by itself.

    1. Distribute one index card to each child seated on the classroom floor in a circle.

    2. Read each action aloud and assist children to distinguish safe from unsafe behaviors.
    (Children can participate by holding up posterboard illustrations of smiling and frowning faces, or giving thumbs-up or thumbs down signals for safe and unsafe actions, respectively.)

    3. As a follow-up activity, children can sort index cards and place into two brown paper grocery bags labeled Fire Safety and Unsafe.

    4. During the second part of this lesson, students will practice oral reading skills and learn about the five senses using a read-aloud story about forest animals.

    5. Prior to class, write the following action words onto 4X6 index cards, or use a word processor program to prepare large-print words:

    • Quiet (say SHHH!)
    • Look! (hand on forehead)
    • Smell! (sniff)
    • Sunshine (arms over head)
    • Breeze (wave hands)
    • Scamper (run fingers up your arm)
    • Listen! (hand to ear)
    • Pecking (knock on table or chair)
    • Scratch, Walk (stamp feet)
    • Yes! (nod head)
    • Go Slowly! (pat hands on thighs)
    • Tear! (rip at air with hands)
    • Push! (push air with hands)
    • Scurry (run fingers across floor)
    • Slither (move arm like snake)
    • Pull (Pull toward you)
    • No! (shake head)
    • Applause! (clap hands)

    7. Read aloud the following story. Hold up index cards with animal actions for each of the capitalized words. Students will act them out with you. Optional resources include animal illustrations drawn by children, or taken from magazines, posters, or clip art. Display these illustrations during the story when specific animals are mentioned by name.

    Our class goes to the forest. It’s a fine morning when we go for a walk in the forest. Everyone knows how to be very QUIET so as not to scare the wild creatures living here. Everyone knows how to LOOK, LISTEN, and even SMELL for clues that can help us spot some of the forest animals. What a beautiful day! The sun is SHINING and a gentle BREEZE flutters the leaves of the tall trees. Where will we see our first animal? I see a squirrel SCAMPERING up a tree. The animals are all busy finding their breakfast. LISTEN, there’s a woodpecker PECKING for insects in a tree. Down the hill three turkeys are SCRATCHING in the leaves for tasty acorns. Let’s WALK deeper into the forest. The trees keep the forest cool and shady. I see something big. Shall we go closer? YES! GO SLOWLY, SLOWLY. Oh my, it’s a big black bear looking for beetles and grubs in an old stump. He doesn’t PECK at the wood like a woodpecker. He TEARS the stump apart with his claws. He doesn’t see us. Whew! Let’s WALK in the other direction. I’ll need everybody to help me roll over this rotting log so we can LOOK underneath. OK, everybody PUSH the log. Oomph, there it goes. All the beetles are SCURRYING away. There’s a little garter snake SLITHERING through the leaves. Let’s roll the log back in place. Everybody PULL. Good job! Who SMELLS something? Yuck, it’s a skunk. I think it’s time to go home. Here we go WALKING again. That was fun. Are forests a good place for animals to live? YES! Are forests worth protecting from fire? YES! Do you think we saw all the animals that live in the forest? NO! We deserve a big round of APPLAUSE for being such good forest visitors. Thank you.

    8. During the final part of this lesson, students will learn how forestry, park, and recreation personnel help to protect our environment. Contact a local forest service office, state department of natural resources, extension agency, or county park to request a guest speaker to visit your classroom. Invite the speaker to describe indigenous forest animals and his or her role to protect the environment for these animals.


    Plan a class visit to a nearby city, county, or state park. Explore the habitat and discuss actions to protect the environment, for example, cleaning up trash, and planting tree seedlings.


    1. Observe children’s participation in the campfire safety circle game to determine if actions are correctly classified.
    2. Offer correction as needed.
    3. Ask for student volunteers to identify personal actions to protect animals and natural environments.
    4. List these on the chalkboard, and/or display appropriate photographs or other illustrations of people performing these actions.

    Useful Internet Resource:
    * Staying Alive
    Staying Alive is a non-profit organization that promotes public safety education. Staying Alive has developed a successful age-appropriate curriculum program targeted at K-8 students to raise awareness about fire safety.

    Other Resource:
    United States Department of Agriculture. 1993, September. Happy 50th, Smokey Bear! A Learning Kit about Forests. Fire Safety for Grades K-3. Washington, D.C.: Forest Service and the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.