Imagine This: Part 3 of an ongoing stranger safety awareness lesson

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Many years ago, I participated in a three year National Science Foundation grant program called The New York State Technology Education Network, NYSTEN. Technology, math and science teachers endeavored to create a prototype of what we now call STEM, courses using natural, not forced, combinations of science, technology, engineering and math. Part of the agreed upon pedagogical approach was the use of the Five E’s. This teaching method was developed from the constructivist idea which holds that any learner, child or adult, builds new ideas with old ideas as their underpinning. Each of the 5 E’s describes a phase of learning, and each phase begins with the letter “E”: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

I see Engage, Explore, Explain as the basis of Imagine This! I hope each of the scenarios presented allows you to focus your child’s thinking on the problem at hand, to help them identify and develop stranger safety awareness skills you believe the child should have, and, for your child to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts and processes you are presenting, to change ideas into life-saving actions.

Alternatively, consider the Behaviorist Theory of Education developed by John Watson in the early 20th century. This model is based on the belief that learning comes from observation and reinforcement. With younger children perhaps the strategies of drill, segmentation (breaking down topics into smaller, more understandable bits), and modeling might work better.

The Abduction of Children by Strangers in Canada: Nature and Scope, Marlene L. Dalley and Jenna Ruscoe note types of methods used by abductors to facilitate their crime. One of these is The Confidence “Con” Assault.

An elaborate scheme is set up by the abductor. It is more of a psychological assault than it is a physical assault. Initially, the abductor has to gain “the confidence of the targeted child/youth. The target’s trust is used to manipulate her or him into physical and psychological vulnerability. The victim begins to notice a change in the behavior of the abductor from a nice person to an aggressor. However, by the time this realization takes place, the abductor has already assessed his or her potential for escape; many of the child’s options are thus eliminated. Trust is devastated after such a con assault. The key to continuing the con assault is to have the abuser convince the victim that he or she is a participant in the crime; the he or she shares the responsibility for the abuse or has no other alternatives”.

Before you use this exercise, remember this frightening statistic: Eight of ten abductions occur within one-quarter mile of home.

Imagine This!

Part III

(As the elderly Sophia Petrillo said so often on The Golden Girls, Picture it!)

Tell your child to imagine that he/she is walking down your block.  Imagine This: “A car pulls up next to you. The person rolls down the window and talks to you. He or she, young or old, asks you to give them directions.” Make it as complete and complex as possible. Get into role-playing. Have the child describe the car, color, style, whatever characteristics they can give to produce a vivid, elaborate scene. Have the child make up the driver’s words. Ask the child these questions:

  • What if the person has really gotten lost? How would you know?
  • What if they ask you to ride with them somewhere?
  • What if they offer you a gift to help them?
  • What if it is a teenager in a hot new car?
  • What if the ice cream man asks if you want to come into the truck?


What is the child’s decision? Can your child draw a map of your neighborhood with some degree of scale? Ask your child to give you detailed directions to near and far locations. Stress that the ability to give specific spatial directions is age dependent. Ask why an adult with today’s i phones and GPS systems would ever ask a child for directions. Depending on the child’s age and maturity, you might want to talk about some recent reported instances of a child making a tragic mistake by remaining close to the car of a stranger or by moving closer because of the abductor’s lure. Remember abductions in Missouri and upstate New York.

We do learn from our mistakes and those of others. Let’s hope we have learned something from all our yesterdays.

Be safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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