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Drowning prevention group hopes to build momentum on Olympic swimming

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Posted at 4:00 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 07:55:57-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — As the world watches swimmers compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, an American-based nonprofit is reminding viewers water safety is a year-round commitment.

“Water never goes away,” said Jim Spiers, president of Stop Drowning Now. “The lakes are still there in the winter, and the rivers are still there in the winter, the ponds are still there, some pools don't get drained. Water never goes away. So water safety is a year round thing you should be focused on not just when the Olympics come around.”

His nonprofit has developed a curriculum to be taught on dry land by teachers around the country. It is available online, free for teachers with a
".edu" email address.

The curriculum uses colorful pictures, characters and songs to teach mostly prekindergarten through second grade students to think before acting around water.

“My big big goal in life is to have a world with no drowning and I know that we're never going to get there, but the closer we get, the happier I’ll be,” Spiers said.

Unfortunately, experts predict the United States will see more drownings this year than years past because social distancing guidelines kept children out of swim lessons and parents often got distracted working from home while watching their children.

This summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new study on drowning prevention highlighting the importance of a multi-layered approach teaching Americans how to swim, perform CPR, properly supervise children around water, and more.

Spiers encourages groups to designate a “water watcher” whenever they’re around a body of water. A “watcher” is someone who is committed to watching children in the water, looks for signs of distress, and has an emergency action plan. Stop Drowning Now offers a “water watcher” badge on its website anyone can download, print and wear while on the water.

Spiers also runs a learn to swim school called SwimJim with locations in New York and Texas. He’s leaned on the expertise of gold medal swimmer from Roeland Park, Kansas, Catherine Fox to help develop that curriculum.

“We started talking about what she was showing in the pool and how we could take that elite level idea and bring it down to a learn to swim level idea. So we're teaching the theory in a way children can understand it. Instead of talking about streamlines, you're talking about kids being an arrow; putting it to the language they actually understand,” Spiers said. “Our goal is to make happy children that are happy in the water when they can get from point A to B safely.”

More information about downloading the Stop Drowning Now curriculum is available on the nonprofit’s website.