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The Jungle Journal

Senator Proposes Mandatory Water Safety Lessons in Florida Schools: Will this Sink or Swim?

Living in Florida, we are never too far away from some body of water. Whether it be a pool, ocean, or lake we can assume there is always at least one body of water near us. This can be exciting for those who love to swim, but terrifying for those who do not. It is important that every person in Florida know some form of water safety, starting with children. Water safety lessons should be taught in schools to ensure the safety and well-being of our children.

Annually, there are over 3,500 unintentional deaths due to drowning, and of these about one in five of them are children under the age of 14, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alarmingly, Florida is leading the country in drowning deaths for children ages 1-4. We are not doing enough to keep our children safe in and around the water. Most of these deaths can be avoided with the proper knowledge and skills when it comes to swimming and water safety.

A recent senate bill proposed by Florida Senator Jason Pizzo would make water safety lessons a requirement for all Florida children enrolled in public school grades kindergarten through 12. These lessons would teach our children how to be safe in and near the water. It would teach them proper use of floatation devices, how to respond to water conditions, and how to respond when stuck in a rip current situation in the ocean. It would also stress the importance of formal swim lessons.

Many cities throughout the US already offer this life-saving class to their students. A school in Oak Park, Illinois called Oak Park River Forest High School (OPRF) has a private indoor pool in which students attend swim lessons during the school day. It is implemented into their lesson plans by blocking out a trimester during their Gym period. These lessons range from basic life saving skills to more complex skills in swimming. The school also opens its doors in the summer months for swim lessons.

While OPRF has the space and money to build and maintain their own pool, some schools do not. This could cause stress for principles and faculty members, but schools in Western Australia have already figured out ways to implement water safety lessons in to schools that do not have private pools. Australia has what is called an Interm Swimming Program, according to the Australian Department of Education, each student in pre-primary to Year 7 is entitled to ten consecutive 40 minute lessons per year. This program offers various venues for schools to choose from: indoor, outdoor, and surf venues, and suggests which age group would be best suited for each venue. The venue will help in transportation and safety of the students. Oak Park, Australia, and many other cities are already implementing water safety into their public-school system. Now it is Duval’s turn to save the lives on many people by making swim lessons a mandatory part of the
public-school curriculum.

To implement water safety in schools, Duval county would need to provide teachers with the necessary equipment to teach our children. This could mean access to water safety lesson plans, or indoor pools. The American Red Cross as well as an organization called “Stop Drowning Now!” have lesson plans available to the public with the goal of teaching school aged children water safety. These lesson plans are very helpful and offer activity ideas the teachers could implement. While classroom discussions are a great way to start teaching children the basics, the best way to teach water safety is to get them into the water. Schools might not have their own private indoor pool, but the YMCA and private swim schools are great facilities that schools could utilize if they had access to one near them.

One indoor facility,with 90-degree water, in Jacksonville, that focuses only on teaching swim lessons and water safety is Swimming Safari Swim School. This school teaches children skills they need to have fun and be safe in the water. The instructors teach their students what to do if they were to fall into a pool, how to do a survival float, how to turn around and get back to the side, how to propel themselves forward in the water, and many other important life-saving skills.

It is everyone’s responsibility to keep our children safe around water, especially living in a state surrounded by it. Children are never too far from water and it only takes a short amount of time for a child to drown. This senate bill would ensure all children have access to water safety lessons which would aid in the prevention of unintentional drownings. Water safety lessons and swim lessons could save a child’s life.

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