Here at Excel Aquatics, we take a lot of care in constructing not only our EXCELerate curriculum, but the methods that our coaches and instructors go about teaching young children to swim. One tool that we use consistently at both our Albany and Schenectady learn to swim program sites are powerpacks, as they provide a means for us to slowly but surely help each beginner swimmer reach independence in the water, step by step. These powerpacks have 4 pieces of foam, and with each step in our process, the swimmer has 1 piece of foam removed from the pack, until they are eventually moving through the water without assistance.
Progressive independence is a concept that we feel provides immense value to the learning process. Here are 5 key reasons why this concept is a cornerstone to our teaching methods:
Reason #1–Progressive independence guides children confidently and comfortably through the journey of independence in small, incremental steps. Like any large endeavor, breaking a challenge up into small, bite size pieces allows for more consistent progress over the long term. When a child is taken from the assistance of an instructor to full making attempts of swimming without support, it is typically more challenging for the child to make those small, tangible steps towards successful independence. Progress in this regard can often be less consistent, slower, and can even become a deterrent towards the swimmer’s enjoyment of learning.
Reason #2-It promotes tangible progress. Swimmers develop confidence from seeing themselves level up through our groups with less and less ‘floats’. Celebrating tangible progress helps keep children motivated and excited about learning and improvement.
Reason #3-Instructors can work on other skills aside of strictly full independence. Air regulation, proper kicking motion, and balance all must develop in order for a swimmer to become fully independent. Having a system that allows children to maintain monitored levels of support aside from an instructor, and that scales incrementally as they get stronger at all of the mentioned skills truly promotes a short and long term vision for actual safety and independence in the water.
Reason #4-Grouping becomes more effective. Our Excelerate curriculum is based on grouping with specific amounts of buoyancy, allowing the instructors to appropriately teach and challenge the swimmers within their group, and follow a proven process. Knowing how much support a child requires based on their group is not only a key safety factor, but allows the Excel staff to more effectively evaluate when a child is ready to move up to the next group.
Reason #5-Progressive independence allows for the use of great teaching tool. Using our ‘powerpacks’ allow for creativity within each class, especially for shy or timid swimmers. Having our packs ‘give the swimmers powers’ or ‘help them fly through the water’ eases swimmers into enjoying the lesson experience, and thus being more open to trying new skills.