Swim by 10 program could be a life saver

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There is virtually no limit to the learning offered in the exceptional schools in Monroe County schools. And a pilot program for second graders at Rogers Elementary in Waterloo goes beyond traditional elementary school teaching to impart knowledge and skills that may one day save a life.

“Swim by 10” is sponsored by the Monroe County YMCA and combines classroom lessons with practical instruction organizers hope will eventually ensure every Waterloo student will be able to swim by the age of 10.

“Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 14 and our goal is to reduce that statistic by offering this program to local schools,” said Aidan Marshall, aquatic and sports director at the Monroe County YMCA.

The program is a free water safety course developed for children ages 10 and under. It is currently only being implemented at Rogers Elementary as a pilot program.

“I connected the (YMCA) to (principal) Lisa Buchheit as well so she is interested in starting it at (Ss. Peter & Paul School),” said Waterloo School District Wellness Coordinator Kelly Lerch, who, along with Marshall, was instrumental in getting the Swim by 10 program into Rogers.

“Our hope is to eventually be in every school in the area,” Marshall said.

The program is a free water safety course developed for children ages 10 and under. It is currently only being implemented at Rogers Elementary as a pilot program.

“I connected the (YMCA) to (principal) Lisa Buchheit as well so she is interested in starting it at (Ss. Peter & Paul School),” said Waterloo School District Wellness Coordinator Kelly Lerch, who, along with Marshall, was instrumental in getting the Swim by 10 program into Rogers.

“Our hope is to eventually be in every school in the area,” Marshall said.

The program is structured so the children have six in-classroom sessions, which take place during their physical education period, with Marshall instructing them on everything from the importance of supervision to how to help someone who is in trouble without going into the water after them.

“Classes meet on Fridays during their P.E. time for six sessions,” Rogers P.E. teacher Karla Bivins said. “The classroom sessions offer interactive games to help the students learn the importance of water safety.

“Sessions range from basic pool rules to helping someone in trouble. We have covered how to overcome your fear of water and the importance of never swimming unsupervised. Students have performed relay races that enhanced knowledge of pool safety and have learned how to blow bubbles/breathe when swimming. So far, we have completed three classroom sessions,” Bivins said.

The second part of the program involves six sessions in the YMCA pool, where participants will practice what they learned in class and learn basic swim skills.

“On the last day of the classroom sessions, each student will receive a certificate of completion and a punch card for in-water safety classes,” Bivins said. “The punch cards will have a schedule on the back of them so that parents can view the dates and times available to take their children to the YMCA for six free in-water lessons.”

The pool sessions, which are free of charge for members and non-members alike, will begin the week of March 14.

“So far, students and parents have been very supportive and positive with the classroom sessions. The students have been very energetic and cooperative in learning about water safety. They are looking forward to earning their certificates,” Bivins said. “This is a great way to bring our school and community together to learn about water safety and increase our students’ and parents’ knowledge of such an important subject.”

Especially this time of year, never far from the minds of nearly everyone in Monroe County is the tragedy that took place Feb. 19, 2010. On a cold Friday night, young best friends Kadin Baxmeyer and Austin Baum ventured onto a frozen pond on the Baxmeyer property and fell through the ice. The boys and Kadin’s mom, Kathy, were headed to see a movie to celebrate Kadin’s seventh birthday. There could only have been a handful of moments during which the boys were out of Kathy’s sight, but that was all it took.

Evidence found by emergency workers and search dogs indicate that Kathy realized what had happened to the boys and went into the pond after them. All three drowned.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Kathy’s sister, Karen Anderson, created a nonprofit organization called Project Skipper, with the slogan, “See Ice, Think Twice,” which aims to teach all-weather water safety to children.

The Swim by 10 program also addresses cold water safety, including information little swimmers can use to recognize when they are getting too cold and what to do about it, as well as how to help someone having difficulty in the water without entering it after them, known as the “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go” technique.

“We also learn about boat safety and the importance of  wearing a proper life jacket while on the water. And we tell them to remind their parents about all these little water safety things.

“Our goal is, at the end of this program, each child has more knowledge of water safety, but also have the skills needed to help keep them safe in the water,” Marshall said.

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