Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children under age four. Every year, thousands of children under age 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for drowning-related incidents. Just knowing how to swim isn't enough – children are vulnerable to water-related hazards.

What is WHALE Tales?

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago created the safety program, Water Habits are Learned Early, (WHALE) Tales. The program provides easy-to-follow information to help children learn safe behavior in, on and around the water. Taught in a classroom session, Longfellow's WHALE Tales makes water safety fun and easy to learn. Each lesson is reinforced with color posters, worksheets, activities and a video that features Longfellow, the animated whale, and can all be purchased from the Red Cross Store.

What are the basic lessons?

  • Swim with a buddy in a supervised area
  • Be cool, follow the rule–the reasons behind water safety rules
  • Look before you leap–choose safe places to swim and dive
  • Think so you don't sink–what to do when things go wrong
  • Reach or throw, don't go–safe ways to rescue a swimmer in trouble
  • Don’t just pack it, wear your jacket–the importance of wearing a life jacket
  • Cold can kill — knowing the hazards
  • Learn about boating before you go floating
  • Who teaches the program?

    WHALE Tales courses are taught by hundreds of local high school student volunteers. These volunteers present the interactive youth aquatics curriculum to more than 15,000 elementary students throughout the Chicagoland area each spring. The volunteers have been trained in both aquatic safety and presentation skills by the Greater Chicago Red Cross. This unique “student-teaching-student” technique results in higher retention levels for elementary students while fostering important leadership skills in older students.

    For more information about bringing WHALE Tales to your school or organization, please call (312) 729-6233 or email ashley.nwangwa2@redcross.org. If you are interested in purchasing program materials, please visit the Red Cross Store.