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What Is the New Swimming Curriculum All About?

Posted by Jen Sullivan on November 29, 2018

Why change?

When the topic of change comes up there are always people who are for the change and those who are against the change. When deciding to change an entire swim lessons curriculum there is definitely a lot to consider. With only a few commercial curriculums out there, a lot of strategizing and thought must go into any decision.

We have been looking for a more comprehensive and integrated curriculum that bridges the swim safety elements we want and the high quality swim drills for stroke development we need. We feel we can do better for both our members and our instructors.

Introducing the Starfish Aquatics Institute (SAI)

Founded by the husband and wife team of Jill and Robbin White in 1999, Starfish Aquatics Institute began with a desire to do better. After working for several aquatics institutions throughout their careers, they had a desire to find a program that focused only on aquatics, was at the forefront of science and worked collaboratively for the benefit of all levels of aquatic involvement. If you are interested in more of the history of SAI please refer to their website

What does the SAI curriculum do differently?

  • The SAI curriculum focuses on both water safety and swimming skills. This is important, as most of those who participate in swimming lessons will not go on to any type of competitive career. Learning how to be safe around the water, and swim properly is a win win! Each level in the curriculum has a safety benchmark and a skill benchmark to achieve.
  • The SAI curriculum is very flexible. This is advantageous as we are able to adapt the class to fit the needs of the students enrolled at any given time. We are able to progress through the levels as the class warrants. SAI provides the framework for the structure of the lessons, but leaves the final product in the hands of the facility and the instructors.

What are some changes that you will see?

  • There will be age parameters for certain classes. This will benefit those students that start late, or are uncomfortable in the water. The age ranges in classes will be more closely aligned to their peer groups.
  • The actual class time for Level 1 and 2 is going to drop from 45 minutes to 30 minutes. This will allow for less downtime. You will notice more purposeful drills being done for the duration of the lesson.
  • Our class offerings will be changing slightly. There will be no more Level 6 or Guard Start. We are looking for an alternative class for the Guard Start program, as this is a valuable program to have for recruitment of future lifeguards. We will be having expanded offerings of days and times for the Pre-school lessons as well as Level 1 and 2.

What will not change?

  • We will be keeping the class names as they currently are. This will be a much simpler process for you.
  • The quality of instruction will remain at the level that our members have come to expect. We realize that there will be some bumps in the road as we implement this new curriculum. We will be taking notes, and making adjustments as needed. You expect quality swim instruction, and moving to the SAI curriculum helps achieve that goal.

Class Breakdown

Floating Fish: This class is for 3 year olds. As long as they are 3 they will remain in this class. It will focus on trust and submersion in the water, as well as body position and air recovery. You will see a progression of skills from getting used to the water to front and back floats. The floats will start as assisted and progress to unassisted. They have to complete the exit skill in both swimwear and regular clothes. If they complete this once they turn 4, they will be moving directly to Mighty Minnows.

Gliding Guppies: This class is for 4-5 year olds who have never had swimming lessons. It will be the same curriculum as the floating fish class. They will progress more quickly than the floating fish, thus the flexibility to introduce some concepts they will learn in Mighty Minnows. Guppies’ will be focused on body positioning for stroke development.

Mighty Minnows: This class is for 4-5 year olds who have passed either Floating Fish or Gliding Guppies. This class will focus on proper body alignment and preparation for learning strokes. Focus will be on front/back/side glide with arm pulls and kicks. We will be introducing the Elementary Backstroke and Scissors kick in this level. Select skills will be completed in both swimwear and regular clothes.

Level 1: This class is for 6-10 year olds that have never taken any type of swimming lessons. It follows the same curriculum as the Gliding Guppies class, with a faster progression, then moving into the Mighty Minnows curriculum. They will get used to the water, work on submersion and start learning stroke progressions.

Level 2: This class is for those that have aged out of Mighty Minnows or passed Level 1. We will continue progressions for successful strokes. The main focus is integrated movement with the front/back/side glide. We will be introducing the Elementary Backstroke and Sidestroke.

Level 3: This class is for those that have passed Mighty Minnows or Level 2. It will focus on the Front and Back Crawl. We will be teaching the Elementary Backstroke and Sidestroke in Level 3. The focus of the class is technique over endurance.

Level 4: This class will focus on the Breaststroke and Butterfly and review the Front/Back Crawl, Elementary Backstroke, and Sidestroke. The focus of the class is technique as opposed to distance.

Level 5: This class will focus on endurance and distance. All 6 strokes will be used and reviewed in this course. Proper turning and lap swimming techniques will be introduced.

Final Thoughts

We understand that there will be lots of questions about where does my child fit regarding the previous curriculum or a different program. For those that have taken lessons here, your child will continue in the level that they were in the old curriculum. For those coming from the outside, we will work with you for the best placement. We understand that for those in Levels 3 and 4 there may be gaps. Our instructors will work with the kids to provide a positive experience. Don’t be discouraged if they appear to remain in the same class for a longer period of time.

Stay tuned for open house events where you can come speak with us and learn more about this transition. We will be scheduling these as we get closer to the completion of the pool area.We are excited for this new curriculum. It will be a challenge as we implement and get started, but feel that it will be a positive change for everyone. 

Jen Sullivan

Jen Sullivan

Jen Sullivan is our Aquatics and Youth Programming Assistant. Jen has been a lifeguard instructor and water safety instructor trainer for over 20 years. You can find her most Monday nights at the National Volleyball Center playing volleyball. She also plays tennis and loves being in the outdoors. During the summer you can find her on Lake Zumbro skiing with the Skidox waterski team!

Contact Jen Sullivan at (507) 405-1036.

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