Peggy T. Burger, founder of Bubble Swim School


To complete the swim school lesson curriculum, as a member of the United States Swim School Association, we all need to address the rising tide of water safety deaths and injuries. We, of all professionals, need to take the lead assuring that children, parents and adult students not only learn the proper techniques of swimming but also learn and demonstrate knowledge and respect of the inherent dangers of being in and around water through a comprehensive understanding of water safety.


Incorporate Safety into Every Lesson


Educators will tell you that optimal learning and retention occur when information is incorporated into each lesson rather than having subject matter provided in an isolated lesson. Both methodologies can compliment one another and are recommended overall. It is easy to include a safety message in each swim lesson. For example, while you and your student(s) are entering the water, state a Water Safety rule, and ask the child what it means, in developmentally appropriate language for that student. Then, have the student restate the rule back to you to make sure that the student understands this rule. The conversation might be as follows: The teacher says to the student, “A very important Water Safety Rule is to never swim alone.  What does that rule mean to you?”  The student might answer, “I should only swim with Mommy or Daddy, not by myself.” This only takes a few seconds of swim lesson time and this Water Safety rule may prevent a drowning.

For classes of more than one student, encourage a brief discussion of the rule involving all students. If a child is younger than 3 years old, discuss the rule with the parent as the teacher and child enter the pool for the swim lesson. Have one Water Safety Rule for the day and change to another Rule for each day of swim lessons. If possible have the student re-state the Rule of the day just prior to the end of the lesson.


Safety Day Lesson


An additional layer of water safety instruction that swim school owners can implement into their programs would be one 30 minute Safety Day during each series of swim lessons. The following components exemplify a well-rounded guideline to Safety Day.  This activity is done out of the water with teams of


parents, students and teachers jointly participating while on the patio, followed by a fun teacher supervised activity like a free swim or children going off the diving board for a very few minutes.  Make sure that all participants understand that this is only an overview and not a substitute for CPR or First Aid classes.


During my tenure as owner of Bubble Swim School, Safety Day was scheduled on every hour and half hour all day long. Since we were an outdoor facility, we held it under the covered patio. All classes (4 years old and older) had Safety Day during their lesson time. We had the children get their parents who sat in chairs while the students sat on their towels. We ran private lessons (under 3 years old or by request) every 15 minutes and because of the time difference, we were able to incorporate these students and parents into the Safety Day by having them come either 30 minutes early or staying 30 minutes after their private lesson. Generally Safety Day was taught on the last lesson in the series of classes. In cases of inclement weather, we could take children out of the pool and get them on the patio for our Safety Day thus preventing dreaded make-up lessons.  Each family was handed a packet of various free safety brochures which were obtained from various city, county and state agencies including fire departments, health departments, park and recreation departments or the American Red Cross.




  1. Overview of Rescue Breathing (Mouth to Mouth) and CPR procedures. Resources are available from the local American Heart Association or at or use the web address below to order a CPR Kit from American Heart Association or contact the American Red
  2. Overview of the Steps for a Choking

Charts for #1 and #2 with colored pictures in English on one side and Spanish on the other are available from your local American Red Cross. Find your local chapter by using:

  1. Overview of Water Safety Rules* including pool, open water, boating, diving and diving board rules. Also, include what 911 is and when to use

Now move the students and parents from the patio to pool side.

  1. Overview of Pool Side Rescues. Incorporate pool side participation of the Throwing

Assist (Throw, Don’t Go), and Reaching Assist without Equipment Rescues utilizing a “Mock Drowning.” A good resource is Basic Water Rescue written by the American Red Cross.


Provide a “Mock Drowning” after CAREFULLY explaining to the children that this is ONLY pretend and not to worry or be afraid. Young children can find this activity frightening without this explanation. Explain to children, they are doing this so that they can learn how to help a drowning person BUT no child should ever pretend to be drowning.


A “Mock Drowning” consists of one instructor accidentally falling into the pool pretending to be drowning.  The second instructor, who is standing on the pool deck, just leans over and puts out her hand to help. The first teacher pulls the second teacher into the water and now they are both pretending to drown.  You now have two drowning victims. The third, fourth and/or fifth teachers on the deck help the children properly save the instructors who are in the water by using a Throwing Assist. As the victim is brought to the pool edge, children should lay flat on their stomachs on their towels on the pool deck and extend their arms. Now, implement the techniques of The Reaching Assist without Equipment.  Each child has one turn until all children have participated and all available Water Safety equipment has been demonstrated. The last part of the Rescue is when the victim’s (first or second teacher) hands are placed, one on top of the other, on the deck with the rescuer’s (student’s) hands stacked on top of the victim’s hands and the rescuer yells “Help.” This will draw the attention of an adult to come assist the child.


Reaching Assist with Equipment should be explained but not demonstrated. It must also be explained that a child should not attempt a rescue of a Submerged Victim.


The training of instructors to teach Safety Day is critical for accuracy and consistency of the information taught. We would always have our experienced teachers begin the Safety Day instruction at the start of our day and slowly integrate newer teachers into the lessons. This allowed the newer teachers to observe quality child-teacher interaction and all lesson elements included in Safety Day. After about two hours of Safety Day instruction, new instructors were expected to take one of the first three components of Safety Day with the experienced instructor gently adding anything that the new employee might have missed. New employees were then required to lead each of the four areas of instruction by the end of their first Safety Day.


* If you will kindly forward or send me your Water Safety Rules, I will add them to my current lists, compile them and give you a list of my findings at the Tampa Conference. Please have the subject line on the e-mail read Water Safety Rules and e-mail to Peggy Burger at or mail to 2790 S. Torrey Pines Dr.; Las Vegas, Nevada 89146