Curriculum Guide

Elementary School Curriculum Guide  #

Introduction  #

The Hawaii Aquatics Academy’s Aquatic Safety Education curricula are composed of both classroom and pool lessons and align with state and national health and physical education standards. The lesson activities are designed to teach students the cognitiveCognitive abilityThe means to process, retrieve, and store information and knowledge. , physicalPhysical abilityThe means or proficiency to perform a motor skill, or set of skills, correctly and consistently. , and affectiveAffective abilityThe means to process and respond to attitudes, values, and emotions. Attitudes are an enduring and guiding set of outlooks that influence behavior, and values are principles that impact the likelihood of an individual choosing to act or not in a given situation. skills they need to safely interact in, on, and around aquatic environments. The lesson plans are organized and taught with the aim of developing the knowledge, self-dependence, and self-confidence of students with a wide range of prior aquatic skill competences and experiences.

This Elementary School Curriculum is based on a set of competencies, identified by aquatic injury prevention education experts and researchers, that are considered essential to avoiding and recovering from encounters with hazardous aquatic situations. The organization, definitions, and development recommendations of these competencies are provided in the following four articles: Aquatic Safety Competencies, Aquatic Safety Knowledge, Aquatic Motor Skills, and Aquatic Situation Skills.

The inclusion of aquatic safety knowledge and survival/situation skill components in this curriculum is more encompassing than the swimming skills of traditional learn-to-swim programs, and thus the curriculum utilizes more extensive educational procedures and instructional methods. Formal education practices such as the use of scoring rubrics and competency progress indicators for student assessment processes are incorporated. These and other measures have been taken with the goal of applying formal education guidelines and procedures with current aquatic injury prevention research to provide an effective and reliable aquatic safety education program.

Objectives  #

The goal of modern aquatic safety education program design is to provide education platforms that address common causes of both fatal and nonfatal aquatic injuries (e.g., aquatic safety unawareness, unintentional entry, lack of physical ability, poor judgment, inadequate supervision) through the development of aquatic safety competencies. To achieve this goal, curricula for such education programs must be designed to help students gain an understanding of the multifaceted conditions and circumstances that lead to various types of aquatic injuries (e.g., drowning, head and neck trauma, hypothermia). The development of personal aquatic safety competence is best achieved with a blend of learning approaches that prepare students with the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for both situation avoidance and situation recovery. Accordingly, the objectives of this curriculum are:

  • Development of aquatic safety knowledge and local knowledge
  • Development of safe behaviors and risk-management skills
  • Development of aquatic motor skills and survival skills

Requirements  #

The objectives listed above, coupled with the following constraints and features, form the requirements that influenced the development and design processes of this Elementary School Curriculum. Aside from the cost of implementation, the two primary constraints are the time allotted for instruction and the wide range of students’ prior aquatic skill competence and experiences. Two required features of the curriculum are the flexibility to align the curriculum’s competency objectives with different school systems’ grade-level health and physical education standards and wellness objectives, as well as the flexibility to adapt curriculum components for adaptive or special needs students.

Design  #

Structure  #

The Elementary School Curriculum course is designed to be taught in one 5-week session with two lessons per week or in one 10-week session with one lesson per week. Each session consists of 1 hour of classroom-based instruction (two 30-minute lessons) and 4 hours of pool-based instruction (typically eight 30-minute lessons). As illustrated in the course timeline below, the first and last lessons are taught in a classroom and the middle six to eight lessons are taught at a pool.


Classroom Lesson

4 hours of In-water Instruction

6 to 8 Pool Lessons


Classroom Lesson

Organization  #

The classroom-based portion of the curriculum complements the activities of the pool lessons and focuses primarily on the cognitive and affective components of the overall curriculum objectives. The organization of the classroom lesson content is based on the course timeline, illustrated above. The first classroom lesson introduces students to aquatic safety concepts and prepares them for the upcoming pool lessons. The second classroom lesson builds upon the knowledge and experiences developed during the pool lessons and further develops safe behavior principles taught in the first classroom lesson.

The pool-based portion of the curriculum focuses on the physical components of the overall curriculum objectives and on the aquatic safety competencies that have both cognitive and physical components. The curriculum is organized into three distinct physical skill levels:

  • Beginner Level — designed to be completed by students who demonstrate limited to no basic water safety or swim skill competence during an initial assessment.
  • Fundamental Level — designed to be completed by students who demonstrate some water safety or swim skill competence but are unable to perform such skills at a grade-level standard during an initial assessment.
  • Intermediate Level — designed to be completed by students who demonstrate a grade-level standard of competence in one or more water safety and/or swim skills performed during an initial assessment.

Each skill level is organized into five or six skill sets; the skills within each set typically incorporate similar motor patterns and/or complementary learning objectives. Each set is composed of one or more physical motor skills and one or more Safety SkillsSafety skillA method which improves the ability to interact with water in a way that increases the likelihood of avoiding and/or recovering from a hazardous aquatic situation. . Safety Skills are physical motor skills that include Knowledge ObjectivesKnowledge objectivesThe cognitive learning goals associated with a competency, skill, activity, lesson, or session/unit. — which are used to develop safe behaviors and the ability to understand and cope with the risks associated with aquatic environments.

Implementation  #

The Classroom Lesson Plans are composed of two 30-minute lessons. Instructional activities incorporate direct presentation of information, dialogue, and role play. The lessons are taught in a group setting, typically indoors, by one or two instructors per 20 to 24 students.

The Pool Lesson Plans for each skill level are composed of six to eight lessons — for a total of 4 hours of instruction. Instructional activities incorporate demonstration and practice of physical skills, dialogue about safety topics, and situational simulations. The course is designed to be completed within one 5-week session and taught with an average instructor-to-student ratio of one-to-four. A class of 20 students should be distributed into five groups based on initial student assessments. A class of 24 students should be distributed into six groups. Beginner Level groups typically have two to four students; Fundamental Level groups typically have three to five students; and Intermediate Level groups typically have four to six students. Students who exhibit an extreme fear of the water and/or a reluctance to participate may not be able to complete the course objectives within one 5-week session.

Assessments  #

Students are assessed for the cognitive and physical components of the curriculum throughout the course and are used to produce standardized student and school reports. Scoring rubricsScoring rubricA guide that includes rating scales and descriptions of one or more criteria used to evaluate the performance of a skill. are used to measure motor skill and knowledge objective performance for each skill/activity taught during the pool lessons. Performance measurements — time or distance measurements — are taken for select motor skills during the first and subsequent pool lessons to determine initial skill proficiency as well as skill progression during the course. Competency Progress Indicators provided in the reports use a combination of one or more of these assessments to indicate progress development for each of the defined aquatic safety competencies. The competency progress indicators, when aggregated together to form a cumulative progress indicator, provide the information necessary to determine each student’s overall development progression, relative to an age-level standard, and may be used to create a school-wide aquatic safety competence profile.

Learning opportunities  #

Incorporating grade-level objectives for both health education and physical education in a single curriculum for safety and injury prevention education provides for differentiable learning opportunities compared to most health and physical education programs, which typically have separate curricula.

The recovery and survival components of aquatic injury prevention incorporate problem solving and simulation activities that are unique to active aquatic-emergency situations. In addition to the health and physical education competencies developed by this curriculum, individual and group activities as well as supplemental reading, writing, and science activities can be incorporated in the lessons complimenting or incorporating other core curriculum learning objectives.

Learning priorities   #

The real-world conditions limiting the accessibility of aquatic safety education must be considered when determining learning priorities. Well over half of all participating public elementary school students will not have had formal aquatic safety education or learn-to-swim lessons prior to starting a school-supported aquatic safety education course. For many students, a during-school-hours program will be the only formal aquatic safety instruction they participate in during their childhood development years. Further, the range of students’ prior abilities and experiences is highly influenced by demographic factors. These conditions, coupled with the possibility that the knowledge and skills learned today could save a student tomorrow, influenced the learning priorities and instruction emphasis of this curriculum.

Curriculum mapping  #

Physical Education Activity K-5 Competency Matrix

The following sections provide the alignments of the classroom and pool instructional activities with the Aquatic Safety Competencies and the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards (HCPS III).

Aquatic Safety Competency Map  #

The Aquatic Safety Competencies developed by the knowledge components, physical skills, and situational exercises of the pool-based instructional activities are illustrated in the Aquatic Safety Competency Matrix.

Hawaii Health Education Standards Map  #

The HCPS III Health Education K-5 benchmarks addressed by the knowledge components and situational exercises of the classroom-based instructional activities are identified in the Classroom Lesson Plans. Additionally the pool-based lessons address the benchmarks for the Core Concepts standard topic of Promoting Safety and Preventing Unintentional Injury (HE.K-2.1.4 and HE.3-5.1.4).

Hawaii Physical Education Standards Map  #

The HCPS III Physical Education K-5 benchmarks addressed by the knowledge components, physical skills, and situational exercises of the pool-based instructional activities are illustrated in the HCPS III Physical Education K-5 Matrix.

Parents / caregivers  #

Given the staggering statistic that 88% of fatal childhood drownings occur under adult supervision, the importance of parental/caregiver inclusion in the overall aquatic safety education process cannot be understated. Local and national reports of childhood drowning incidents invariably include statements that an adult was present but did not notice a child was in danger until it was too late or include details of an activity where common safety precautions were neglected.

Although students are the targeted recipients of this curriculum, the parents or primary caregivers of the students become involved in the education process through permission form requirements and the preparation of their children with swimsuits and towels for each pool-lesson day. This necessary attention provides a window of opportunity to remind parents that their application of aquatic safety practices can be crucial to the prevention of drowning and other aquatic injuries for their children and others in their care. Consistent and targeted messaging to the parents or primary caregivers of students before, during, and after the course can directly address this first layer of protection in the campaign of childhood drowning prevention.

Closing  #

The Hawaii Aquatics Academy attempts not only to promote aquatic safety education but also to modernize that education. A purposefully designed curriculum that aligns with established grade-level health and education standards and wellness objectives can provide a path for broader adoption of aquatic safety education into the overall childhood education process. Through small instruction group sizes and a standardized curriculum, students are provided with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to be Water Safer for Life®.