Saturday, June 25, 2011


My lifeguard sense came back instantly as I watched the ninety or so first graders splash and flail across the pool.  I was experiencing (yet again) something completely different from my “normal.”

In America, children learn to swim at community pools such as the YMCA.  In Japan, students learn at their elementary schools.  From their homeroom teachers.  Swimming is treated as any other type of P.E. class.

Every spring, the teachers and students drain last year’s water, clean out and refill the pool in preparation for swimming lessons.

During a free period in my schedule, I was invited to watch at the poolside as the first graders had their swimming lessons.  It was very interesting.  A massive group swimming lesson. 

When I was regularly life guarding, swimming lessons was one of the usual pool activities I had to watch over.  The class sizes were typically small so that the teacher could really focus on the students individually.

But swimming lessons are not mandatory in the U.S.  Apparently they are in Japan.   Not only do the Japanese students learn basic survival strokes, they also learn competitive strokes such as the butterfly. 

I find this very interesting. Should something like swimming lessons be mandatory in elementary schools?

Karl had an opportunity to join in with swimming lessons this week. He had a great time.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have sunscreen…and now resembles a lobster. 

Poor guy.
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  1. I strongly think Japan has the right idea. Swimming lessons should be mandatory. I realize that some areas of the US are not as rich with lakes and streams as MN is. However, every time I hear about a child drowning because their parents cannot go in and save them it makes me so sad. As a lifeguard and former swimming teacher (and I was on swim team for 10 years) there is no reason that anyone should not know enough to tread water and wait for rescue. Or better yet, elementary back stroke, or a basic front crawl. I remember last summer somewhere in the south, I think 5 children drown as they tried to save one another when one stepped off a drop off in a river they were wading in. One whet down, then one tried to save them and they went horrible dominoes. A few mandatory and basic lessons could have saved them.

  2. I think that's fabulous. I was one of those awkward 9th graders who found an excuse to skip PE classes when we did the week-long swimming unit because I don't know how to swim. The unit was basically just testing your skills as opposed to teaching them to you, so if you didn't know how it was not a fabulous experience. As an adult I've learned a bit here and there... basically enough to keep me from drowning for a small amount of time. But it would have been awesome to learn that with everyone else in elementary school.