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Researcher wants kids to learn to swim in open waters

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 12 February 2019, 6:25p.m.
Chris Button wants to see more kids learning how to swim in open waters. (Photo / NZ Herald)

A new study proves the value of teaching open-water survival skills to children.

The University of Otago study set out to determine the effectiveness of teaching children basic survival skills in lakes, rivers and the sea, rather than in swimming pools.

The study involved 120 children between 7 and 11 doing a three-day water safety and survival skill programme.

Study Lead professor Chris Button says the results were encouraging.

He says the kids improved their competency in each of the six tasks and he was "genuinely surprised” by the skill retention demonstrated after three-months.

He told Larry Williams that the majority of drownings occur in open water rather than swimming pools. 

"It's absolutely vital that people are exposed to some of those environments."

Button says that the kids "absolutely loved" being in open waters, and many of them adapted to the change in environment very quickly.

He says environmental conditions at beaches and rivers, such as currents and waves, don't happen in pools. 

"That knowledge and exposure to them can really, really help." 

However, he admits that kids are swimming less and less in open waters, with those taking part in the study having mixed experiences. 

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