by Nathan Ullyot, CPRP Director of Community Services, City of Maricopa
The importance of water safety is always at the forefront of people’s minds as summer approaches. Unfortunately, drownings continue to occur despite increased awareness. Global Water and the City of Maricopa have partnered with Maricopa Unified School District to combat these preventable tragedies by eliminating barriers to water safety for area youth.
With the support of our local school district we hope to provide basic water survival education to every Maricopa youth by the time they reach third grade. This is important because statistically, if a child doesn’t learn to swim by third grade, they’re more likely to never learn.
How It Works
Throughout the fall, the City and MUSD scheduled schools to participate in a four-week program specifically designed to give children a greater chance at survival if they fall in the water unattended.
Each class attends a weekly 45-minute lesson at Copper Sky’s Aquatic Center as part of the students’ school day. Children are assessed based on the national standard for swimming ability and placed in the appropriate curriculum. Children receive instruction in the water and learn water safety education including personal awareness around water and how to react if they see someone else struggling in the water.
We establish benchmarks that indicate each child’s improvement and, most importantly, their ability to safely return to the wall or edge after jumping or falling into a body of water. Every participant receives a report card with a pre- and post-assessment showing their growth.
The program is designed to remove barriers to receiving lessons including: cost, transportation and time. By generously supporting the program financially, Global Water provided funding for the initial pilot and expansion of the program for the first three years. This support also provides transportation to and from the schools. At present, this program is not a budgeted school function, so this was critical to the partnership.
MUSD staff saw the vision and value of the Maricopa Swim program and identified the best opportunity to conduct a pilot program during school time so first graders at Maricopa and Butterfield elementary schools could attend. Through this partnership, 198 first-grade students received water survival lessons.
Of the 198 students, only 15 indicated they had some formal swim lessons prior to this program. At the first-day assessment, 160 of the 198 children were afraid to jump into water 3 feet deep. None of the participants were able to complete the assessment to the Starfish Institute’s national standard for swimming skills.
After the program, 190 of the 198 children were able to jump into water over their head and return safely to the wall. Providing the children with the skills and awareness to survive was our primary goal and measurement for success.
We surveyed the parents and only 50% of the parents believed their child would survive falling into the water unattended when the program started. After the program 89% of parents believed their child now had a chance to survive, and 100% saw an increase in their child’s confidence in and around water. All parents saw the program as a good use of school time.
Going into the 2020-21 school year we hope to schedule every elementary school in Maricopa for the program. We also wish for this program to become a part of the curriculum and fabric of our local education system for first graders.
A special thanks to our sponsor Global Water Resources and its board, especially Ron Fleming, Jon Corwin and Beth Huerta. Thank you also to Maricopa Unified School District and its staff including Superintendent Tracey Lopeman, Principals Jennifer Robinson (Maricopa Elementary) and Janelle Hildick (Butterfield), and P.E. teachers Paul Krigbaum (Maricopa) and Steve Sorenson (Butterfield), who supported us when they’re already doing so much to help our community.