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Elementary students learn to be safe in and around water

Seneca Valley seventh-grader Braden Rubinosky, 13, demonstrates kayaking safety techniques at the district's Elementary Water Safety Program at the Aquatic Center Tuesday. The program teaches students a range of water safety lessons from boating safety to swimming. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

JACKSON TWP — Elementary students throughout the Seneca Valley School District visited the district’s new Aquatic Center this week to learn how to stay safe this summer as they enjoy pools, ponds, rivers and even the ocean.

Lee Mullet, the physical education teacher at Evans City Elementary School who helped start the elementary water safety program during the 2014-15 school year, said students from all four elementary schools in the district learn the main concepts of water safety from physical education teachers and varsity swimming and diving club leaders.

“I hope the kids learn how to swim and be safe,” Mullet said. “Kids don’t pay attention to what they’re doing, and that’s when you get the accidents and injuries.”

Members of the varsity swimming and diving team carried out demonstrations in the water as well, to the delight of the elementary students.

While the program for many years took place at various pools, it is now held at the district’s new Aquatic Center on the secondary campus.

Evans City Elementary School staff member Tim Dubovi teaches boating safety tips to students during the district's Elementary Water Safety Program at the Aquatic Center Tuesday. The program teaches elementary school students a range of water safety lessons from boating safety to swimming. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

On Wednesday, Evans City Elementary students listened attentively as various adults got them thinking about being safe in and around water.

The event kicked off with the students trying out four different swim strokes from their vantage points beside the pool.

Members of the varsity swim and dive team dove into the pool and demonstrated each stroke after the youngsters tried it out on dry land.

The elementary students cheered vigorously for a swimmer who ably demonstrated the seemingly impossible butterfly stroke.

They then learned about safety around water when storm clouds roll in.

“If you see that (type of) weather coming, think about the area where you’re at,” Mullet said. “Where can you go to be safe?”

He said a bathhouse or car is a safe place when thunder rumbles and lightning appears in the sky — unlike a pavilion, under a tree or, worst of all, in the water.

Renae Brown, Ryan Gloyer Elementary School physical education teacher, and Tom Dubovi, instructional and intervention specialist at Evans City Elementary, then educated the students on safety in creeks, lakes, ponds, rivers and the ocean.

Brown counseled students never to jump or dive into water of an unknown depth, always have a buddy, watch for sharp objects, and be aware of the current in the ocean.

“Make sure you can see the bottom and have two feet on the bottom,” Brown said of playing in the ocean.

If a strong current tries to carry them away from shore, they should swim parallel with the beach until they can swim toward it, she said.

Regarding boating or kayaking, Dubovi told the students to always let someone know where they are going, take a whistle for emergencies, scout the best area to get their kayak in and out of the water, and always wear a life vest and get out of the water in a storm.

Seneca Valley 10th grader Ronny Royhab, 15, demonstrates the butterfly stroke during the district's Elementary Water Safety Program at the Aquatic Center Tuesday. The program teaches Seneca elementary school students a range of water safety lessons from boating safety to swimming. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

Seventh-grader Braden Rubinosky then demonstrated the safe piloting of a kayak in the pool, with Dubovi narrating.

Dubovi also discussed “strainers,” or underwater trees and debris that could trap a capsized boater, and how to stay warm after falling into cold water.

Swim and dive team members who are certified lifeguards told students what it takes to become a lifeguard, what the various whistle blasts used by lifeguards mean, and a what a lifeguard’s duties are while working.

Seneca Valley senior Ria Dietz then leaped from a lifeguard chair into the pool to “save” flailing sophomore Ronny Royhab, a swim and dive team member who is also a lifeguard.

“It’s really important for them because there are lots of drownings, and they have to be aware of how a pool functions,” Ria said as she stood poolside wrapped in a towel. “Although you are going there for fun, it’s a huge hazard.”

Seneca Valley graduate and University of Pittsburgh student Donata Massimiani, 20, and Seneca senior Ria Dietz, 18, (back) demonstrate lifeguarding rescue techniques during the district's Elementary Water Safety Programat the Aquatice Center Tuesday. The program teaches Seneca elementary school students a range of water safety lessons from boating safety to swimming. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

Fourth-grader Micah Eiler appreciated the water safety program.

“I didn’t know a lifeguard will just jump off the stand and go into the water,” Micah said.

Kelsey Hart, also a fourth-grader, was interested in the simulated save performed by Ria Dietz.

“It’s good to see because if someone is drowning, you can see how they save them,” Kelsey said.

She also was fascinated that lifeguards use their whistles to communicate with one another.

Shea Skwortz, also a fourth-grader, said she learned a lot about water safety on Wednesday.

Shea, who is on a youth swim team, prefers pools to the ocean.

“I do not like jellyfish,” she said emphatically.

Shea appreciates the elementary water safety program at Seneca Valley, which won an award a few years after its inception and serves as a model for other school districts across Pennsylvania.

“I really like that they do it because it helps kids understand that you have to be safe while you’re having fun,” she said.

Evans City Elementary third-graders practice swim strokes during the district's Elementary Water Safety Program at the Aquatic Center Tuesday. The program teaches Seneca elementary school students a range of water safety lessons from boating safety to swimming. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle