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Tampa Bay area kids learn about water safety in the 'World's Largest Swim Lesson'

Children learned how to float or breathe underwater at almost 30 community pools around the Tampa Bay area on Thursday.

Water is everywhere in and around Florida.

Children learned ways to remain safe in and around it at almost 30 community pools across the Tampa Bay area at the “World’s Largest Swim Lesson.”

Although Thursday's stormy weather put a slight pause on the action at some sites, it didn't stop the young participants from learning rudimentary skills like how to float and breathe underwater.

About 120 kids visited the Del Rio Pool in Tampa for the free 30-minute lesson.

Tampa Parks and Recreation Director Sherisha Hills said the global event spreads the word that swimming saves lives.

"It's important because we're around so many bodies of water. People think it's just a pool, (but) you can drown," Hills said. "Whether it's in your tub, whether it's outside in a pond, a lake, we just have so many bodies of water here, we're teaching kids how to be safe around it and how to be able to save themselves by swim lessons."

 Blue water droplets on an info graphic discussing water safety.
Tashie Tierney
Tampa Bay children learned about water safety in the "World's Largest Swim Lesson" on Thursday, June 22. Officials said the event teaches children rudimentary skills like how to float and breathe underwater in case of accidental drowning.

Michelle Sterling is the coordinator for Safe Kids of Greater Tampa. She said drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children ages 1-4, even though it is "preventable."

The American Academy of Pediatrics said the risk of drowning can be reduced by 88% if children in that age group take swim lessons.

She added that children as young as six months can start learning water safety moves like how to flip or float.

"It's learning those basics in case there was an incident where they were to get into the water without us knowing they might crawl out there, they might get out that window or that door," Sterling said. "Toddlers know how to get out really quickly."
Sterling added that every child should have a "water watcher" — or a designated adult to supervise them.

"(Drowning) can happen to any child, no matter what the age is, and they can be a great swimmer," she said.

Sterling said that in addition to teaching children to swim, there are a number of other ways to help prevent drownings.

"It's very important that we raise awareness to not only make sure that our children know how to swim, but that we have those barriers and extra protections and layers in place," she said. "So having those door alarms in place, having window alarms, making sure we have those pool fences put up so that we know that there are barriers between our children and the water."

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.