By Natalie Strom
The Marco Island YMCA recently wrapped its annual Waterwise Program for third grade students at both Tommie Barfield Elementary and Manatee Elementary schools. As the end of each school year approaches, Miss Dottie, Aquatics Specialist at the Y, teaches these students the importance of boating and water safety. With the help of the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 95, the fifteen-plus year program was, once again, a success.
“I designed the program over fifteen years ago,” explains Miss Dottie. “Every third grade class at Tommie Barfield has been through this program since that time. We began teaching the Manatee students a few years ago.” Tommie Barfield students participated in the Waterwise Program in April, while Manatee students went through their training in May. Each school brings about thirty students per session. Small class sizes ensure that students will soak up as much information as possible.
The hour and a half program involves a quick swim test for each student, followed by a rotation among three stations; pool rules and safety with Miss Dottie, boating basics with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and emergency training with the Fire Rescue Department. The olympic-size pool at the YMCA offers the perfect environment for students to learn these basics.
Miss Dottie spoke to students about the importance of swimming pool safety. Students gathered around her table, listening intently as she shared her words of wisdom. She then brought students to the POOL RULES sign, where they went through each rule, discussing its importance. Then it was time for a swim! Students practiced “saving” each other using life rings and rescue cans.
Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary taught boating safety. Students were shown a typical marine VHF radio found on a boat and were taught how to use it. In the event of an emergency, tune in to Channel 16 and repeat the term “Mayday” three times. The international distress signal will be heard and someone will respond on the other end to help. Students moved over to the pool to learn how to safely get in and out of a rescue boat. Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary stressed the importance of knowing where to find life jackets and how to put them on properly. Students then practiced floating in the safety position, hugging their knees to their chests.
The Marco Island Fire Rescue Department offered tips for emergency situations. Lieutenants Hancock and Hernandez and Firefighter Rodriguez discussed the basics of CPR, first aid and stressed the importance of calling 9-1-1 in an emergency. Students learned not to go in after a person who is in distress in the water, but rather use a tool to pull them to the side of the pool. Students offered suggestions on what they could use; a pool net, a “noodle” and a Shepherd’s Hook. Public pools will always have a Shepherd’s hook available. Students, once again, had a chance to take a dip in the pool. They learned that they can rely on a life jacket to keep them afloat, even in the deep end of a pool.
The excitement of being at the YMCA’s pool was evident as students tried very hard to follow one specific rule; no running.
The stacks of “thank you” cards Miss Dottie receives after each Waterwise Program prove its success. Students add personal notes, explaining the specifics they learned and how grateful they were to come to the Y for the day.