Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Trade Pencils for Pool Time; as Part of Swim America, They Learned Swim Styles during Three School Days

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Trade Pencils for Pool Time; as Part of Swim America, They Learned Swim Styles during Three School Days

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

San Pablo Elementary School second-graders traded pencils and books for swimsuits and goggles three mornings this week.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, they splashed up and down the Fletcher High School pool under the supervision of physical education coach John Stringfellow, and many volunteers, including Navy rescue swimmers from Mayport Naval Station.

Through Swim America, a free national program created by swim coaches, they learned the basics of freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. They also practiced surfacing in the deep end of the pool after jumping off a diving board.

Each class spent 40 minutes in the pool each day, and "they're ecstatic," teacher Paula Messerschmid said Wednesday as she took pictures of her 20 students in action. "We have so many volunteers today, it's almost like private swimming lessons."

Stringfellow runs the program every year for every grade, because, "swimming is a very important skill, a lifetime sports skill," he said. Since Beaches students live near the ocean and around many pools, it's also important for their safety.

Fourth-graders will participate next week, followed by fifth-graders the week after that. Kindergartners, first and third-graders will do the program in the spring.

San Pablo, which is a health and fitness magnet school, is the only Beaches elementary school to offer the program, because it's the only one within walking distance of an available pool, Stringfellow said.

Over the years, he said the program has inspired many of his students to join community swim teams and later the Fletcher Middle and Fletcher High swim teams. Many already know how to swim when they first participate in Swim America, but not all, he said. For those who do, it improves and reinforces their skills.

In keeping with the health and fitness theme, the school will also offer a new gymnastics and diving program for the first time this year, as well as Zumba dancing, and a U.S. Tennis Association Quick Start tennis program.

Principal Kim Bays thanked the Fletcher High "family" for arranging times the elementary students can use the school's pool. …

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