Students benefit from water safety program

REED CITY — Winter has been a brutal one this year. With such a large amount of snow still covering the ground and negative temperatures, it’s hard to think about summer activities just yet.

This is the time of year that G.T. Norman Elementary School gym teachers focus on an important lesson with students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Through a grant, the school was able to purchase a water safety program developed by the American Red Cross and the equipment needed to help students feel safe, confident and prepared around water.

Longfellow’s WHALE Tales, named after Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, who started 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. Lessons are not just centered around summer activities. There also are important reminders regarding winter hazards such as ice forming over lakes. This program is done annually so students receive the information repeatedly as they continue through elementary school.

For several weeks during class, 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. Boating safety also was reviewed and all the students learned how to use an appropriate life jacket, making sure they had the right size and buckling it securely. Worksheets with information from every lesson were sent home so parents and students could discuss what they have learned.

After students go through the lessons in gym, they are ready to practice in real water. Spring Hill Camps in Evart welcomed students, teachers and parents to utilize its facilities to continue this education at the pool. Students rotate through several stations that focus on a specific skill, but it wasn’t all work. Students were able spend some time swimming with their friends and going down the water slide. Camp lifeguards were on duty to help keep everyone safe due to the large number of students in the water.