REED CITY — Living in a state full of rivers, lakes and swimming pools, an accidental drowning is a family’s worst fear while enjoying summer activities. Gym instructors at GT Norman Elementary School in Reed City are aiming to reduce that risk by educating its students. Grades K thru 5 participate in an annual program developed through the American Red Cross.

Longfellow’s WHALE Tales, named after Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, founder the American Red Cross in 1914, is a water safety program designed to give children an awareness of safety rules when they are in or around water.

For several weeks, gym instructors Doug Emington, Brian Hammond and Lisa MacDonald used this program to teach their students valuable lessons including swimming with a buddy, adult supervision, observing the area before entering the water, and proper behavior around other swimmers.

They also reviewed swimming strokes and how to float. Boating safety involved all the students learning how to use an appropriate life jacket, from making sure they had the right size to buckling it securely. Longfellow the Whale, the program’s mascot, reinforced the education through worksheets sent home for parents and students to review.

Of course, water safety education would not be complete without actually having lessons in water. Partnering with SpringHill Camps in Evart, gym instructors along with GT Norman grade teachers continued the education at the pool. After working through a few different lesson stations, students were able spend some time swimming with their friends and taking trips down the water slide.

Camp lifeguards were on duty to help keep everyone safe due to the large number of students in the water. Kindergartener Colton Gilland remembered one of the important lessons he learned over the weeks, “Are my lips turning blue? Cause I don’t want to get hypo…hypothermia. “

“Everyone I have talked to agrees that the most important thing is safety. Water is fun, but they also have to remember it can be dangerous.” said Lisa MacDonald, pleased to be part of the program.