The Why and How of Safety Day at Foss Swim School

By Foss Swim School

Our quarterly Safety Week event is a tradition at Foss Swim School, and one way we bring our mission to improve water safety to the forefront. Our goal is to make this a really fun experience for swimmers even as they learn, review and practice key water safety activities and basic water safety tips.

This year, we have some changes to how the Safety Week classes will operate. You should be hearing about this from your teachers and local school, but in case you missed the news, are a first-time family or just want to learn more about the how and why of Safety Week, this is for you!

Water Safety Week 2023: What to expect

On Water Safety Day, we focus especially on basic safety skills. This means simulating some of the most common and dangerous aspects of water emergencies – falling in unexpectedly, while fully clothed, and making rapid decisions about what to do next. We set it up to be fun, safe and not scary, but the lessons imparted are serious.

Here’s what will happen, and how your swimmers should prepare:

  • Jumping in wearing YOUR clothes: The most notable activity (and biggest change) is jumping in the water fully clothed at the start of the session. This is optional, but most kids want to try it. This year, we ask your swimmer to come dressed in pants and a shirt or sweatshirt that can get wet. Don’t forget to pack a second set of dry clothes for after the lesson!
  • No goggles or shoes (and check pockets): We want to recreate the impression of falling into water, so kids should expect to go in without goggles. Some kids forget what it feels like without them. In a real incident shoes need to be kicked off, but we’ll just talk about that.
  • Younger kids will NOT jump in clothed: If you have a Backfloat Baby student, or a student in Little 1, Little 2, or Middle 1 – kids still learning their safety strokes – we’ll be going over safety lessons at the start of the session. In swimsuits, they may practice Chop Chop Timbers and Humpty Dumpties, which are age-appropriate lessons that feature falling in water and, most importantly, turning back to find the wall.
  • Practicing the Safety Stroke: For students who jump in, they will try practicing their swim-flip-swim skills, and see how it feels different with heavy, wet clothes.
  • A refresher on safety lessons: All students will spend time hearing and talking about safety rules, like always asking an adult before going near water; not reaching out into water for anything; not going under any structure under water; wearing life jackets; and more.
  • Talking with parents: Lots of FOSS people will be on the pool deck circulating among the parents, talking and explaining. We want adults to see how challenging it can be even for a strong swimmer when the unexpected happens. We also want to make sure the adults have the key lessons learned by heart, so they will reinforce them every time their family is near water.

The lessons of Water Safety Week

Here are some of the things we teach, and why these lessons are so important:

  • DON’T PANIC: Having kids experience how heavy wet clothes are and how different their buoyancy is will help them not panic if this ever happens in the real world.
  • UNDERSTAND HOW EVERYTHING CHANGES: For those jumping in clothed, they’ll understand firsthand how wet clothing weighs down arms, drags water and makes normal strokes like the freestyle and backstroke almost impossible for many and really tiring for all.
  • SWIM THE MOMMA BIRD: The “safety stroke” or “momma bird” technique of five strokes face forward, then flip, then five flaps on the back and repeat is the most efficient stroke for this extreme situation.
  • SEE IF A SWIMMER GETS IT: We are also looking for cognitive limitations, especially in young children – basically a fancy way of saying, do they recognize a dangerous situation and know what to do? We may even try some play-acting to see if they can make the right decision.

Different Lessons for Different Levels

All of our Safety Week activities are designed to test what kids know and can do, and build their skills and confidence as they progress. So never skip a Safety Week because you’ve done it before – there are new lessons and challenges for swimmers every time.

This has just been an overview of the basics – you’ll get more detailed information at the pool, and of course don’t hesitate to ask questions. These are skills most people will never need, but are important to everyone’s safety. We hope you look forward to Safety Week as much as we enjoy putting it on! See you at the pool!

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