Learning to swim—or learning any activity—sometimes gets put in a separate category by parents from the learning done in elementary school. Sometimes it’s called sports, or exercise, or physical activity, and teaching it is called “coaching” or “instruction.”
In our experience, learning physical skills has a lot more in common with “book learning” than many people appreciate, which is why we emphasize that we are a swim school and that students learn from swim teachers. We are not about rote memorization—do this, then do that—but about building understanding, buttressed by repetition.
Which is to say: At FOSS we appreciate and advocate for learning in all forms and for the school approach that is fundamental to our curriculum and way of teaching. Learning in a group with peers of similar skill AND developmental level, adapting teaching styles for different learning styles, emphasizing repetition, all of these are core to the Foss Swim School philosophy.
Introducing Little Libraries at FOSS
Speaking of book learning, it’s also why you may have noticed new book displays in the viewing areas at several of our locations. In partnership with local children’s bookstores, we are giving kids a chance to exercise their minds and imagination outside the pool while waiting with their families. These displays are or soon will be a feature at all FOSS schools.
Our partners help us curate a selection of books for a range of reading levels that will expose kids to new stories and new ideas, and maybe help them find a new interest or favorite author. Families are encouraged to explore the selection with their kids while waiting for a class to start or while waiting for siblings to finish their classes.
How Reading and Swimming are the Same
We genuinely see swimming as the same kind of fundamental skill as reading and other “school” pursuits. Some of the commonalities include:
- Skills that build: From learning letters, to sounds, to words, to ideas, to stories, reading is a continual process of building skills. Swimming is too. When we teach humming bubbles, opening eyes underwater, and paddles, those are the first words of a student’s swimming language.
- Sequencing and timing: What happens when in a story, and how it is revealed, is critical to comprehension. So is the order in which swimming skills are applied and come together to form strokes.
- Imagination and visualization: Books are seen in the mind’s eye. We use imagination as a part of our earliest lessons, of course – when our students become mermaids or dolphins – but metaphors continue to guide our lessons over the years. “Painting the ceiling” reminds students to extend their arm up in a backstroke, and “pulling water” helps them pull their hands into correct position in the crawl.
Without taking the idea too far, we genuinely believe that all forms of learning activate similar parts of the brain, and we look for ways to build on and support all the other areas in which our students are learning.
So the next time you come into FOSS, look for the library, and see what other possibilities we can open together in your child’s mind!