Free Swim Lessons Currently Offered to All Second-Graders at Aguilar Elementary
As the weather grows increasingly warmer, kids and teens across the state will look forward to a refreshing dip in their nearest available pool. Unfortunately, Arizona natives know all too well that this time of year also brings forth news of accidental drownings.
According to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, drownings are a top cause of injury-related deaths for Arizona children. Between the years 2009 to 2013, Arizona’s child and teen drowning rate was 50 percent higher than the U.S. rate, likely due to the accessibility to pools. To help lower these drowning statistics, Aguilar Elementary has been offering a solution to this problem for their second-grade students.
Thanks to a partnership with the City of Tempe and funding through a private donation from Chances for Children, all second-graders at Aguilar Elementary take one quarter (about 10 classes worth) of free swim lessons at Kiwanis Recreation Center, located right next to the school. During the other three quarters, students are in their regular P.E. class.
According to a parent survey given to the first-grade families at Aguilar in April 2014, only four students in the entire grade had ever taken swim lessons and nearly half of the students did not know how to swim.
The Aguilar administration, P.E. teachers, and Fitness Committee felt that second-grade was the most optimal age for students to participate in this type of activity.
“We felt the age of a second-grader was appropriate for the responsibilities needed from the program, such as bringing a bathing suit, towel, and remembering the days that they swim,” said Aguilar P.E. Teacher Brian Sternberg. “This is also a good age when children can improve their skills quickly and remember the necessary details in order to improve.”
Now in its third year, this program has had a big impact on students at Aguilar, especially in the second-grade community. Parents constantly provide positive feedback and highlight the importance of this program. Whether it is swimming for skill or survival tactics, like floating, the students are much more competent and smarter around water.
“The students are always so excited to go to the pool and meet their instructors. They love learning in the water, and I hear comments daily from students about how much they like it,” said Sternberg.
Tempe Elementary School District and Aguilar Elementary would love to continue this program for the next group of second-graders during the 2016-2017 school year. They are currently seeking out possible resources for funding.
Being aware of swim-safety tips is the first step to preventing drownings and saving lives. PoolSafely.gov and The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offer a list of tips to keep in mind when swimming in both community and residential pools. The website also includes countless resources and easy ways to teach kids the importance of pool safety, such as this fun sing-along video.
The Kiwanis Recreation Center also offers affordable swimming lessons to children and adults at varying skill levels. For more information on swimming lessons, please visit their website.
Each year, too many children and teens become victims of drowning and non-fatal submersion injuries. Together we can work to prevent these injuries by spreading awareness of swim-safety and working toward providing swim lessons to kids that need them.