Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, young students at William Howard Taft Elementary School were introduced to swimming lessons through a unique collaboration called Swimming for Safety. The program, a brainchild of Activities Beyond the Classroom’s Board Member Carol Gibbs, recognized an opportunity to use the therapeutic pool at the Mt. Auburn Community Center (which connects to Taft Elementary) as the perfect resource to teach young children about water safety and swimming. Gibbs, who also serves as President of the Mt. Auburn Community Council, brought the idea to ABC, who then collaborated with Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission to bring the program to life.
The first year, the program was only offered to kindergartners at Taft, but it has since expanded to grades K-3. ABC recently wrapped up the program for the 2019-2020 school year, with a total of 130 children participating for six weeks of lessons, two times each week, for 45 minutes each lesson.
Through the program, children learned basic swimming techniques, such as the doggy-paddle, how to swim to and identify the edge of the pool, how to save themselves during a water emergency, and other important water safety skills. Thanks to our generous donors and community partners, Activities Beyond the Classroom was able to provide each swimmer with a swim-suit, towel, and pool shoes.
Elizabeth Cone, Principal of Taft Elementary, said, “our goal is to introduce pool safety and swimming to children as early as possible. This program provides a safe, aquatic environment with certified instructors. Swimming is a life skill that all children should be given the opportunity to learn.”
Learning to swim can be a life-saving skill. Additionally, it opens up new opportunities for CPS students, such as participating on swim teams, in water sports and potentially even become competitive swimmers. According to Gibbs, “it’s important for every child to learn how to swim. If they don’t learn to swim they never know if they want to be an Olympic swimmer.”
Principal Cone also went on to share some daunting statistics regarding water safety. Statistically, drowning is the 2nd-leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1-14. According to Cone, “formal swimming lessons and water safety training greatly reduces the risk of drowning for this age group.”
Principal Cone is greatly appreciative of the support ABC provides the young swimmers. “Without the generous support of ABC, there would be no program. ABC has been a tremendous help with purchasing supplies for every student that participates.”
The rewards of seeing young children return each year and grow into strong swimmers are immeasurable. For many of the students at Taft Elementary, this opportunity was their first exposure to structured swim lessons. Some of the children have since gone on to take swimming lessons outside of school.
Activities Beyond the Classroom and Cincinnati Public Schools are hoping to expand this program, offering swimming lessons throughout the district. If you would like to help us achieve this goal, please consider making a donation today.