Safety in numbers
Chaos looks down on the Year 5 and 6 children from Bishop Morgan School, Denbighshire, as they tour DangerPoint, just outside Prestatyn. He could be Gollum's uglier sibling, and he presides over a number of the activity centre's discrete "environments", all of which have been designed to illustrate everyday hazards and how to avoid them.
It takes the group quite a long time to spot him straddling the top landing banisters in the domestic danger exhibit, but then there is a lot to observe in this entirely realistic home, created by Flintshire-based housebuilder Redrow.
There are the knitting needles emerging murderously from between cushions on the sofa, a staircase littered with items guaranteed to send anyone straight to casualty, and a smoke alarm devoid of batteries. The latter strikes a chord with 10-year-old Jessie. "My dad smashed ours up - it kept going off all the time," she says.
According to Alan Morgan, the centre's manager, this illustrates one of DangerPoint's main functions: encouraging young people to make the connection between what's on show and their own lives. "One group was touring the kitchen area, and a child piped up that he'd pulled a pan of scalding water over himself as a toddler and went on to show the scars to his classmates," he says. "You can be sure it's a danger that group won't forget in a hurry. And while this group are older now you can guarantee that some of them find themselves looking after younger siblings when they get home from school."
Next stop is a replica garage, complete with shelves filled with enticing plastic drink bottles, now used as containers for all sorts of toxic chemicals. Our guide here, and throughout our tour, is the centre's senior "Danger Ranger" and education manager, Bethan Williams. "We aim to spend about 20 minutes in every area. It can be a rush to get through the interactive elements, but the key thing is to maintain the children's momentum, particularly younger groups," she says.
DangerPoint casts its net wide, seeking to address not only hazards resulting from carelessness, but also creating scenarios that invite young people to reflect on bullying and peer-group pressure. "If there is one message we are trying to get across all the time," says Alan, "it is the need young people have to step back and consider the likely consequences that can flow from their behaviour." This is encapsulated in a mantra that's frequently repeated on the tour: stop, think - and only then act.
The centre's remit also includes internet and mobile phone security, explored though a multiple-choice computer game, which again provides an opportunity for the children to share anecdotes. It is alarming how many of the group have tales to tell of inappropriate advertising texts they're received, or unre-liable chatroom "friends".
"This is not something we have discussed at school," says Tim Redgrave, deputy head at Bishop Morgan, "but it is clearly something that concerns and fascinates them."
Just three months old, DangerPoint is still a work in progress, although it has already welcomed its 1,000th visitor.
Alan Morgan says: "As well as enriching a number of the exhibits, such as the plasma-screen film of a real chip-pan fire, we will be creating a benchmarking computer quiz that children will complete both at the start and end of their visits. It will enable us to access our impact and also then recommend which topics need reinforcing when they get back to school."
Plans are also afoot to broaden the centre's offering to include content for children at key stages 3 and 4.
ON THE MAP
DangerPoint. Granaries Business Park, Station Road, Talacre, Flintshire CH8 9RD Tel: 01745 850414 www.dangerpoint.org.uk