Tiny 3-year-old Emma Loucks ducks her head under the clear water to reach for the sixth and final loop resting on the step of the pool at Pettit Private School Tuesday morning.
“I got it!” she exclaims with a smile, lifting her head out of the water.
A few minutes later, she is kicking through the water before rolling over to float and then racing to the side of the pool with her instructor Dawn Irion providing the slightest assistance.
Irion and two other Fit-N-Wise instructors, Katey Rowden and Taylor Rector, have spent the past three weeks working with the children ages 3 through 5 at the daycare.
The instruction teaches the children safety around the pool along with basic swimming strokes.
“The goal is to get them so they can save themselves if they fall in,” Irion said. “They learn to float and how to get on their back to get air.
“I get them so they are not afraid of the water.”
This is the first year for the daycare to work with Fit-N-Wise for the swimming lessons. Janie Dominguez, assistant director, said the program has been popular.
“The parents love it. They don’t have to leave work to take the kids to lessons,” she said. “Our main goal is the safety of the kids.”
From the start of the program, the children are separated into groups based on their ability – red, yellow or blue – and they can progress through levels during the session.
The students in the red group learn many of the basics and reach their benchmark when they can jump in the water, submerge, recover for air and roll on their backs to float for five seconds.
The yellow group’s benchmark is moving forward 10 feet, changing direction and returning to the wall. The test for the blue group includes kicking 10 feet after jumping in, submerging and recovering to a side glide position.
Along with the children getting important water safety lessons, their instructors are also getting to enjoy themselves.
“They are a ball full of energy,” said Decatur state-qualifying swimmer Rowden. “All of them are different and unique.
“It’s amazing to watch the young kids who wouldn’t get in the water to now always wanting to be in the water,” she explained. “I love being able to share my knowledge. I get to teach some of the strokes in classes.”