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Campbellsville University's WHALE Tales water safety education program is celebrating its 10th anniversary with an estimated 3,000 fourth graders from Campbellsville and Taylor County elementary schools having been taught water safety education at the CU swimming pool.
CU's Department of Human Performance's 21-hour Academic Aquatics Management Minor Program has, for this past decade, partnered with the fourth grade teachers in both systems to provide this unique learning opportunity for the children, according to Dr. John Mark Carter, professor of recreation and aquatics who has been a professor at CU since 1998.
Carter said the instruction has been provided by university students enrolled in the a water safety instructor/lifeguard training instructor course. WHALE is an acronym, which stands for "Water Habits Are Learned Early."
"The shared vision of two public school superintendents - Gary Seaborne of the Taylor County School System, and former superintendent Chuck Vaughn of the Campbellsville School System - both made this partnership possible and groundbreaking," he said.
Vaughn said he remembers meeting with "Doc" Carter.
"When the idea for the WHALES program was first presented to me by Dr. John Mark Carter, I did not hesitate to give him my complete support and cooperation. In my opinion, our students had a tremendous need to learn water safety because we lived in an area where recreational water activities are very popular."
He said students were taught to respect the water and also learned water safety techniques.
"Even though I do not have statistics to prove it, it seems very likely to me that lives have been saved because of the training the fourth grade students received at Campbellsville University. On behalf of the many students and families who have benefited, I say 'thank you' to Dr. Carter and to the students who have assisted him."
Seaborne said, "Taylor County Schools has a long and rich history of educational partnership and cooperation with Campbellsville University. When Dr. John Mark Carter presented his WHALES Tales water safety program overview, I was immediately impressed and motivated to have our fourth graders included in the project.
"The abundance of lakes and streams in Taylor County and surrounding counties make it incumbent upon us to expose our students to top quality water safety education."
Seaborne said the program is an "exemplary" one and has been enthusiastically embraced by students and teachers alike.
"I firmly believe that lives have been saved and debilitating injuries have been reduced by the instruction that our students have received," he said.
"I know that Doc Carter and his student instructors have been patient and worked diligently with our students. I very much appreciate the fact that Doc Carter practices servant leadership in his endeavors because that has been my theory of administration throughout my own educational career.
"As CEO of Taylor County School District, I solute Dr. John Mark Carter and his student instructors for their outstanding educational service to Taylor County youth."
On each day that the program is offered, two fourth-grade classes (about 50 students) view a video, which is about 15 minutes long. Child actors in the WHALE Tales video depict dangerous situations around water in eight different venues.
Carter said these same eight situations will later in the program become the same eight small group experiential learning stations around the pool. But the program is also a take-off on the founder of the Red-Cross program in 1914, the Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow. He was called the "amiable whale" because he had a big stomach and he floated high in the water. Thus, "Whale's Tales" is in honor of Longfellow as well as the acrostic, "Water Habits Are Learned Early."
After the video, Carter summarizes the information from the video by asking the two classes if they remember the slogans presented in the video. The eight lessons for the program, which are included in the video are as follows: reach or throw, don't go!, swim with a buddy in a supervised area, look before you leap, think so you don't sink, don't just pack it, wear your jacket, cold can kill, be cool follow the rule and learn about boating before you go floating.
The students are divided into eight small groups of six or seven per group. The student instructor candidates lead their small group to the particular station that he or she teaches. All eight teaching stations are located around the entire pool deck.
The students are in the session about four-five minutes each, and they move around to each teaching station around the pool.
As the fourth graders depart the pool area door, the university students form a farewell greeting line to say goodbye and "Happy Whale's Tales."
Anthony Farris, a 24-year Campbellsville Elementary fourth grade teacher, has worked closely with Carter from CU through the 10-year partnership in the WHALE Tales water safety education program.
"It has been an extremely valuable program for students of the elementary age," Farris said. "It shows children how to have more respect around the water and how to be safe around the water. Every child that has been through the program has benefited from the information given.
"Each child has experienced the opportunity to learn in more depth about water safety for himself but also water safety to save others around him. If we could look back to children who have been through the program, undoubtedly we would discover that in their future years many lives were saved; this knowledge would speak volumes."
Carter said one of the main purposes of the WHALE Tales Program (and other community service-oriented programs through the academic minor) is for "CU university students enrolled in this course to learn to become servant leaders.
"Also, each year some university students find their calling as they learn to teach fourth graders, Head Start children and functional mental disability children."
Becoming nationally certified instructors can provide several opportunities for CU students after graduating, he said. Organizations such as YMCA, YWCA, Metro Parks and Recreation Departments provide various aquatic programs throughout the year for their clients. Also, Jewish Community Centers and multi-million dollar hospital owned wellness centers are always looking for qualified water safety instructors, lifeguard training instructors, water fitness instructors and professional rescuer CPR instructors. Private health clubs often have pools for their clientele as well.
The university's aquatics management minors are certified through the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association (Heart Saver First Aid and CPR, and Basic Life Support for the Healthcare Provider), and the United States Water Fitness Association.
The aquatics management minor program has provided CPR instruction for the Carver School of Social Work community partners from around Kentucky and certification for the students enrolled in the School of Nursing.
Carter's course also provides one-on-one swimming instructor for several hundred Head Start children from Russell, Casey, Adair, Green and Taylor counties in the spring semester.
From 1980 until 1998, Carter served as associate professor of recreation and aquatics at Wingate University located outside Monroe, N.C. During that 18-year period through the university water safety instructor/lifeguard training instructor course, his students taught more than 20,000 fourth graders through the same WHALES Tales program that he now teaches at Campbellsville University.
Carter said, "We will probably not be able to reach my lifetime goal of teaching 40,000 children (since 1980) in WHALE Tales before I retire from Campbellsville University, but each year we get closer to that number thanks to the students enrolled in the HP 340 course."
For more information, contact Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5260.
Linda Waggener is assistant director of university communications.