Special thanks to Jenna Jacobs, Red Cross Youth Clubs Volunteer, who contributed to this story.
This summer, American Red Cross Training Services and Red Cross Youth Clubs in the Space Coast Chapter worked together to introduce young children to water safety in a classroom setting through a national Red Cross program called Longfellow’s WHALE Tales. The acronym WHALE stands for Water Habits Are Learned Early. The educational program is designed to give children an awareness of being safe around the water in different environments such as pools, waterparks, oceans, lakes and rivers.
High school students in local Red Cross Youth Clubs became the teachers after learning the WHALE Tales curriculum and practicing to conduct classroom presentations.
Connie Harvey, Director of the Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Initiative, worked with Linda Collis, Central Florida Youth Programs Lead, to create this leadership opportunity for Youth Club members.
“Water safety and drowning prevention has been part of the Red Cross mission since 1914, so it makes great sense that we would engage our youth to help spread this message,” said Harvey. My hope is that this [initiative] would be adopted throughout the U.S., and Red Cross Youth Clubs would be able to include water safety and drowning prevention as part of their designated activities.”
Youth leaders were enthusiastic about the opportunity to make presentations to elementary school-aged children attending summer camps. The teens worked hard during the spring to prepare and were thrilled when several local schools invited them to present over the summer.
Harvey added, “It is so important for people to understand that drowning is a risk - it is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and four in the United States. For children under the age of fourteen, it is the second leading cause of accidental deaths. The Red Cross believes that it is beneficial to equip children with knowledge that will not only keep them safe, but empower them to make a difference as peer educators.”
Red Cross water safety and drowning prevention resources, like those used in WHALE Tales can accessed by downloading a free app called “Swim by American Red Cross.” The app, available on the Apple Store and Google Play, has instructional WHALE Tales videos and other supplemental materials intended for children ages K-6. To learn more about Red Cross aquatics programs, visit www.redcross.org/takeaclass.