Students at a Gatineau, Que., school got up close and personal with a special robotic visitor this week — and its flesh-and-blood companion.
The Coopérative des paramédics de l'Outaouais has launched an initiative in the region that takes Andy the Ambulance and its emotional support dog, Boba, to educate children about various safety measures.
Andy helps teach children how to safely cross a street, how and why to put on a bicycle helmet, how to stay safe at unattended swimming pools and why people sometimes have to take an ambulance.
"It is an educational tool, very fun and not threatening for children," Kareen Bélanger, director of the co-operative, told Radio-Canada.
Bélanger said the robot has already been used for several years in schools in the United States, but it made its first appearance in the Outaouais region at École de la Traversée on Thursday.
"We are very innovative here and we want to ensure that the population has access to more preventive services," she said.
"Unfortunately, our paramedics often see accidents involving children who did not follow basic safety precautions."
Bélanger said the hope is to also help children not to always associate paramedics with a negative situation, and if they learn what paramedics do, they may want to look into becoming paramedics in the future.
As for Boba the emotional support dog, a paramedic explained to the students that he and his colleagues sometimes need to be comforted as part of their work.
The Coopérative des paramédics de l'Outaouais hopes to show off Andy and Boba at other schools across the region.