Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Lincoln Middle School Gets Wet, a Program to Teach Swimming to All

The SMMUSD becomes committed to teach swimming and water safety, to all

In addition, a parent is also obligated to teach his child how to swim, so that he may save himself should he be on a boat that sinks. - Talmud.

Drowning is unfortunately the number two cause of death in 5-24 year olds and for every actual drowning death there are four near-drownings that regularly cause long-term life-altering damage.

But kids who can swim love it, and an ability to swim is the a requirement for a multitude of fun activities from surfing, to sailing, to snorkeling.

Interestingly, studies also show swimming improves confidence and persistence in kids as well, not to mention setting them off on the right track for a healthy life. 

As an Australian I was surprised, and a little dismayed, to learn that our local schools did not already have a program in place to teach water safety to our kids, in spite of Santa Monica being a beach town.

Fortunately, thanks to my eldest daughter's interest in swimming I became a board member of Team Santa Monica (TSM), the Santa Monica non-profit swim team that has been serving our city's youth for over sixty years and is now the leading provider of youth aquatics programing in Santa Monica.

TSM is now partnering with the school district to rectify this situation. In order to run our pilot program we have enlisted support from the Lincoln Middle School PTA, some local businesses, including Walker Pools and The Swim Guy and some private donations and some private donations.

We are hoping to secure some foundation grants in the fall to help going forward and would love to get the city itself involved. LA County Fire and Lifeguards will, later in the year, augment our instruction with extra lessons on how to be safe at beaches.

We were inspired by the Rose Bowl program in Pasadena (that teaches every third grade student in that city to swim) that guided us to work with the local schools in order to maximize the number of kids we reached.

To improve equity and remove barriers to participation we supply kids, at no cost, with swimsuits, caps and goggles so that everyone may attend the program.

In addition we have a towel service that provides daily laundered towels to the students, also at no cost. This improves the efficiency of the program and again helps with access.

Our pilot program this spring (run in March and May) has been made possible by the enthusiasm of the Lincoln Middle School principal Florence Culpepper and her PE staff. Their commitment to their kids water safety has been a beacon to us.

Over the course of our two 3-week pilot sessions at Lincoln Middle School every 6th grader will have had the opportunity to learn to swim. This represents over 300 kids we will have put in the water, of which, our estimates indicate about 10% were not water safe prior to the Get WET program.

Our goal is to make this program a regular part of the curriculum in future years, and we hope in the fall to expand outside of our pilot program at Lincoln Middle School where we are currently running our second three week session. Ideally we would like to reach every child in Santa Monica during their 3rd and 6th grade school years.

We hope and expect in the fall to begin a pilot with 3rd grade classes at some of the primary schools in the SMMUSD.

The program itself is currently being run during the student's PE periods, which means that students will be in the water every day for three straight weeks. It is this intense and extended structure that has been shown by the Rose Bowl program to achieve lasting results. 

If anyone is interested in learning more or becoming a sponsor of the program please reach out to TSM, or me, Rufus, at Together we can have a really positive impact on the kids in our community!



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