Beach and water safety important

Issue: Volume 99, Number 17

Posted: 22 October 2020
Reference #: 1HAD6p

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand works with schools and communities to deliver effective beach and water safety education for young people.

As an island nation, New Zealand is blessed with approximately 15,000km of beautiful coastline. But our coastline is also the scene of too many fatal drownings. Over the last decade, there has been an average of 32 fatal drownings per year across Aotearoa, a rate that has increased by 37 per cent over the last five years.

“The numbers are just continuing to rise,” says Nicole Harris from Surf Lifesaving New Zealand. In her role as Community Education Coordinator for the Eastern region she feels strongly about equipping children with the skills they need to know to stay safe on the beach and in the water.

“We just need to make sure that we’re getting into the schools and educating the kids on things that are relatively simple, such as how to spot a rip current and how to practise safe and fun ocean activities.”

Full-day interactive course

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand’s Beach Education programme is a full-day interactive course delivered by fully qualified Surf Lifeguards at select beaches across the country. The programme – which includes clubhouse, beach and water activities – is designed to provide practical water skills to new entrant students to Year 8 students, for groups of between 30 and 100.

“Beach Ed tailors its programme to suit the year levels of the students who attend,” says Nicole. “The core topics – such as Rip Currents, Sun Smart, Safety Rules – remain the same, but the depth of the topic and associated activities vary to suit the age range. For instance, Years 0-2 will be introduced to the first three of 10 safety rules, whereas five rules will be incorporated into the Year 3-4 programme, and Years 5 and up will learn all 10.”

The water activities are also adjusted to suit. For example, to learn about submersion, younger students participate in a water activity where waves wash over them in the sand at the water’s edge; older students participate in a water activity that teaches them the skill of dolphin diving (a technique involving submersion under the waves and pushing off the bottom).

Beach-safe techniques

Children are taught how to be beach safe, using materials that align with the competencies of Water Skills for Life(external link)the national standard for aquatic education in New Zealand primary schools.

The Beach Education programme also aligns with the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum of thinking, managing self, relating to others and participating and contributing, and encourages students to think critically. It feeds into the Health and Physical Education curriculum, aligning with other water safety programmes such as Bubbles to Buoyancy(external link) and H2O - Here We Go(external link); these Curriculum in Action resources are available on link). 

Invaluable at Pāpāmoa Primary School

For schools like Pāpāmoa Primary School in the Bay of Plenty, the beach education programme is invaluable.

“Because we live by the beach and our kids spend all their time there it’s so important for them to be able to identify things like rips for themselves,” says teacher, Stormie Ivamy.

“They get taught to signal for help, how to keep themselves safe in the water, and the role of the lifeguard. It’s so good for our kids to have an understanding of the hazards and the people there to help.”

Pāpāmoa Primary includes the Beach Ed programme in its Health and Physical Education curriculum every two years, alternating it with a Deep Water Safety programme.

Parents’ involvement

“Every two years we go through a community consultation process regarding our health programmes, and beach education is an area that supports our philosophy of personal health and physical development and healthy communities and environments,” says Stormie.

“Because our adult to child ratios around the water are 1:4, we take a lot of parents on the programme, which is fantastic because it really reinforces our message and provides that parent voice and parent support.”

Support from families and the community is important, agrees Nicole.

“Often a student will come back as a Year 2, and then a Year 3 and Year 4, and they love to tell a story about how they went home and taught their sibling about such and such. And so it really does show this whole idea of ‘train one to save many’.”

The fee per student is $15 (plus GST). For more information and to secure your booking, visit Surf Life Saving(external link). 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:10 am, 22 October 2020

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