(Sherwood, Ark.) – At Oakbrooke Elementary, advocating for students extends outside of the traditional classroom setting. Thanks to a partnership with the Bill Harmon Recreation Center in Sherwood, the school is in its third year of Fifth Grade Fish aimed at teaching all Oakbrooke fifth graders the basics of water safety and swimming skills.
School Counselor, Kellie LaMonica, and Sherwood Aquatics Director, Sarah Coulter, created a partnership dedicated to teaching and developing water safety and basic swimming skills throughout the Sherwood community. Coulter points out that Arkansas is seventh in the nation in drowning deaths with young children and the program hopes to combat this statistic.
During the month of May, fifth graders get approximately four to five hours of individualized swimming instruction in the pool at the Harmon Center free of charge. Students attend during their assigned physical activity time, so absolutely no academic instruction is lost. This was a crucial component in program development.
LaMonica teaches guidance lessons focused on having a growth mindset. Students are able to apply what they learn in these lessons in the pool, as well as the classroom. This program has been extremely successful in building student skill levels in the pool, as well as building student confidence.
“I've really focused on growth mindset this year in my guidance lessons and I love that our kids are applying it outside of the classroom,” LaMonica said. “[That’s] the whole goal of being an advocate and school counselor. I want them to apply my lessons to "real life" skills- in and out of the school setting. It warms my heart to see them doing this.”
LaMonica says the program is also includes our Life Skills fifth grade students as well who get pool time with general education fifth graders learning at the same time. We even had one of the Life Skills students learn to float on his back this week.
“It is so awesome to see them all hang out together in a "neutral" environment,” Coulter said.
Coulter offers swim lessons through the city of Sherwood to people of all ages and skill levels. She also oversees all Sherwood pools. LaMonica has over two decades of experience in competitive swimming, both as a collegiate swimmer and as a swim coach.
Coulter and LaMonica would love to add another grade level in the future.