When they’re out of sight the safety of our children is a parent’s biggest concern.
RADAR centre manager Sandra Leo explains to Ni4kids how the unique experience they offer is helping equip our young people with the life skills they need as they embark on their journey from adolescence to adulthood…
Q) RADAR (Risk Avoidance Danger Awareness Resource), a life-skills centre based at Sydenham Business Park in Belfast, gives young people the opportunity to explore real-life risks in a risk-free environment. What, in your opinion, are the biggest risks facing our children today?
Young people face a variety of risks in today's world. Some are the traditional risks we are all familiar with such as water or farm safety, whilst others are new risks including staying safe online. Mental health is probably the biggest single issue facing young people today, with almost a third of callers to ChildLine seeking help with problems from low self-esteem, self-harming, and suicidal feelings to mental health/depressive disorders.
Children and teenagers are generally more vulnerable than adults. They are also more likely to make mistakes due to a lack of knowledge or understanding. By giving young people the chance to explore risk interactively in a safe setting, RADAR offers a valuable lifelong learning experience. Our age-appropriate programmes cater for most risks faced by primary and secondary school children, and are closely linked to the curriculum. The interactive nature of RADAR ensures that young people enjoy their visit as well as learning potentially lifesaving skills.
Q) Who are some of the charities and organisations you are working with and what are the aims of these partnerships?
RADAR is a great example of partnership. We have worked with more than 50 partner organisations and individuals in our first year, and are set to continue many of these partnerships in 2017. Our expert partners range from organisations including the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, and Health and Safety Executive (NI), to a range of charities from the Farm Safety Foundation and Red Cross (NI) to Aware. Each and every RADAR partnership focuses on helping young people keep themselves safe. We work together to give our centre users an interactive learning experience that supports them in navigating today's world, and its dangers.
Q) What makes a trip to RADAR such a different experience for school children and why would you recommend a visit for those who haven’t yet been?
The challenge set for RADAR was to make learning about risk enjoyable for young people. Classroom learning isn't for everyone, and a lot of us prefer to learn ‘by doing’. RADAR is one of a kind in Northern Ireland. It's the only interactive safety and life-skills centre that helps young people learn how to keep themselves safe. Using interactive and experiential learning methods, we give young people a hands-on experience that they will remember for life.
And why I would recommend RADAR? I could fill the rest of your magazine! But instead, I am going to let our past visitors do the talking….
“Our children have gained more knowledge in one afternoon [at RADAR] than we could possibly do over 6, 7, 8 weeks. It was absolutely fantastic.” Joanne Irwin (Teacher)
“I have to say that in 15 years as a teacher it was one of the best, most effective and powerful educational visits I have ever been part of. Any event which can sustain the interest and engagement levels of our often easily distracted charges for three unbroken hours is incredible!” Thomas Carroll (Teacher)
“RADAR has proven an invaluable resource for our local young people... [as] already demonstrated in the feedback received from parents, pupils and teachers. RADAR looks set to become an important tool for youth engagement across our borough”. Councillor James McCorkell (Chair of the Causeway Coast and Glens PCSP)
Q) Which of your educational resources make the biggest impact on your young visitors and why?
I don't think I can pin down any one particular aspect of RADAR. We have an amazing team of Navigators who deliver the interactive sessions and tailor them to the needs of the young people visiting. Visitors enjoy a fun programme in one of the most amazing and surprising buildings in Belfast – it really has to be seen to be believed! Our life-sized street scene enables real-life skills to be delivered to today's digital generation. In my opinion, it's a perfect combination of people, place and expert partners that creates an experience which is so unique it would be hard to forget.
Q) What are your plans for 2017 and beyond?
We hope to welcome over 18,000 children and young people to RADAR in 2017. We have already opened the doors to more than 4,000 primary school children so far this year, and are well on our way to achieving our target.
We are also very excited to have recently announced SPAR as sponsor of our interactive heathy eating zone for primary school children. In 2017, RADAR hopes to welcome further commercial sponsors and develop new learning zones – as well as build upon the impressive 12,000 centre users who visited in 2016.The unfortunate reality is that children will always need help navigating the world. New threats and risks will continue to emerge and it's important to stay current for our future visitors. Beyond that, we would love to think that every school in Northern Ireland will visit us next year..... we will just about squeeze them all in!
We plan to develop interactive programmes for new audiences in the year ahead. Having just launched our team-building programme for adults in 2016 to great success, we are expanding into the adult market. We hope to deliver programmes for older people and parents particularly new/prospective parents in late 2017. We also have a small building project underway to develop two new conference/meeting rooms so that we can fit everyone in! It’s such a unique venue that the opportunities are endless.
Find out more about RADAR or book a visit:
T: 028 9025 9844
L-R: Sandra Leo (RADAR), Imogen (10) and Bronagh Luke (Henderson Group) at the unveiling of the specially commissioned SPAR shopfront on RADAR's life-sized street scene. RADAR and SPAR have joined forces to tackle childhood obesity levels in Northern Ireland.