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Sanibel Recreation Center offers American Red Cross swim lessons to children

By Staff | Jul 6, 2016

Brooke Bothun teaches Joshua the safest way to travel up and down walls. ASHLEY GOODMAN

For the past nine years, the Sanibel Recreation Center has offered American Red Cross group swim lessons. The lessons began on June 21 and run until July 19, so there’s still some time left to sign up. The classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Learning to swim at a young age, such as six months, is crucial, said Sanibel Recreation Center Aquatics Manager Tasha Maddix.

“Especially here in Florida, where we have tons of pools and we’re surrounded by water and especially here on the island, it’s very important. We know drowning is very high in this area. It’s very important to teach them at least the skills of just floating or being able to roll over on their back or paddling over to a wall or towards a shore. We’re really focused with these age groups on personal safety on and around water,” Maddix said.

According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4. According to USA Swimming, in 2014, Florida reported 50 deaths from drowning. The children were all younger than 15.

Some of the key things which are taught at the swim lessons are safely entering and exiting pools or bodies of water, how to identify lifeguards, pool rules, traveling up and down walls, descending and ascending on steps, teaching them to float on their back, blowing bubbles and arm and leg actions.

Tasha Maddix, aquatics manager at the Sanibel Recreation Center. ASHLEY GOODMAN

“A lot of those safety points will come first before we ever get into the realm of actually leaving the steps or swimming on their own,” she said.

Their youngest class, Baby Bubblers, is targeted for children 6 months to 36 months. Its primary focus is working with the parent to teach swimming skills to their child.

“We want to pass along the skills to the parent so they can work with their babies during the swim lesson and at home. We do a lot of singing of songs that mimic arm and leg actions, we also try to get them to blow bubbles and get their hair wet,” she said.

The second tier of swim lessons, Little Skippers, is targeted for children 3 to 5. In that particular class, children learn basic water safety skills, floatation, breath control and proper water entry and exit. There is a total of six children signed up, making it their most popular class. The recreation center maintains a six to one ratio for all swim lessons.

After Little Skippers, they offer an Introduction to Water Skills class for children 5 and older. Bobbing, floating and arm strokes are taught. In Fundamental Aquatic Skills, children must be able to enter a pool without assistance, swim five yards, bob three times, float on front for three seconds and then roll over to the back and float for three seconds, glide on front at least two body lengths and exit the water independently.

Brooke Bothun, a water safety instructor, teaches Adam Akhtar the importance of kicking his feet. ASHLEY GOODMAN

During the final class, Stroke Development, children must be able to float on their front and back for five seconds and swim using combined arm and leg action for 10 body lengths.

Brooke Bothun, a water safety instructor at the Sanibel Recreation Center, has been working at aquatic facilities on the east coast since she was 14. When she was 16, she became certified for lifeguarding and water safety instruction. She’s been teaching for over six and a half years.

“I’m very confident in my skills with water safety instruction, it’s second nature. My favorite thing is watching the students’ progress with each and every class. You can see where they have grown and developed new skills. It’s really great to see how excited they get at the end when they learn that important life-saving skill,” Bothun said.

So far, there are a total of 15 children signed up for the swim lessons. The swim lessons are opened to residents and non-residents as well. For members, the lessons cost $50, for non-members, it’s $66. For more information, contact the Sanibel Recreation Center at (239) 472-0345.

Brooke Bothun helps Addy Dewalt learn how to float on her stomach. ASHLEY GOODMAN