Community Collaboration: Water Safety Class

Community Collaboration: Water Safety Class

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, swimming lessons are a right of passage for many Minnesota residents – but this is not so for many newcomers to our state. In the city of Shakopee, 16.8% of the population was born in a location outside of the United States. Immigrant populations often have had no prior access to water safety instruction. Moreover, cultural customs that place a high value on modesty inhibit women from attending traditional swimming lessons where males are present.

A community collaboration is born

A member of the local water exercise class approached the Shakopee Community Center with a financial donation and a desire to serve populations not reached through traditional resources. This initial collaboration led to a vision of a women’s water safety class that honored cultural customs of modesty.

One donor, one aquatics supervisor, four lifeguards, and five volunteers participated in the project. Community Center personnel met with potential participants, organized staffing, and secured a venue. The Parks and Recreation department recruited volunteers. Adult Education teachers spread the word and assisted in the registration process.

The class and its benefits

The Water Safety class met for six sessions in the Winter of 2022. The fifteen women who attended one or more sessions learned a variety of skills tailored to their individual needs. Curriculum included:

  • front and back floats
  • returning to a vertical position
  • orienting your body in water
  • breath control
  • front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, finning on back
  • treading water

The culminating activity for most students was jumping into deep water, surfacing, and swimming to safety. Participants also learned about other aquatic resources and several students ventured to the Shakopee Community Center for water exercise, open swim, and family swim time.

Response from participants has been highly positive and many are eager to join future classes!

“I recommend the water safety class because it taught me how to protect myself if I am in a dangerous situation in the  water. I had never been in a swimming pool before. Now I have the courage to jump into deep water.”
– Pratima Bhatta

“I am happy because now I know how to swim. I am not concerned if I am thrown into deep water.”
– Kimny Men

“The swimming class was very important. It taught  me how to help myself if I am in a dangerous situation.”
– Belkis Santiago

Penny Brown, SouthWest Metro Adult Education Teacher SouthWest Metro ABE