How D.C. schools are swimming against the racist history of America’s pools
October 20, 2017
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Swimming instructor Kevin Burdick stands in the middle of the newly renovated pool at the Marie Reed Recreation Center in Adams Morgan as about 20 children wearing colorful goggles stare back at him. They grip the pool gutter, shivering slightly, waiting for instruction.

As Burdick yells “Set! Go!”, students push off the wall one at a time, attempting to put their arms in a streamlined position with their hands together. Today’s lesson: gliding. Some are successful. Others look more like Superman, with their arms extended straight. When they stop moving and float to the top of the water, they bob back to the wall and the other students give them feedback:

“Your fingers can’t be spreaded[sic],” said Lavell Creek. “Your fingers have to focus on keeping your feet up.”

“Yea, you have to focus on keeping your feet up,” Daeyon Pannell chimed in. “You have to blow bubbles underwater!”

Burdick’s students are participants in a D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) pilot program to teach younger students water safety and swimming skills.

After practice, Pannell gives his feedback about the program.

“I don’t wanna be mean, but personally I think I’m the best swimmer,” he said with a smile. “Nobody can do what I can do. I can do belly floats! When I go underwater, the water [doesn’t] usually get inside my nose. I know how to keep the water away. I go farther than everybody. Even though I’m not as tall, I know how to keep up.”

According to DCPS statistics, Pannell is an anomaly. Around 70 percent of elementary students in this pilot program have barely had any exposure to swimming.

Read the whole story at WAMU 88.5.

 

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