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Swim lessons offered during Flex help students learn valuable skills

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.

The bell rings and students rush to the pool in hopes of not missing a single moment of Flex. It’s Friday at South View Middle School (SVMS) and students have come to the pool for one specific purpose: to improve their swimming skills. The students are eager to learn from Garret Runing, Lifeguard at SVMS and Community Education Services employee, who has offered swim lessons during Flex since the beginning of January.

Runing, who has been a lifeguard and swim instructor since he was in high school, identified the need during regularly scheduled swim classes. “In class I wasn’t able to assist students who needed help because my focus was on the entire pool,” Runing said. Flex time emerged as an opportune time for Runing to give students dedicated attention.  

Many students come to the lessons every week to practice strokes, kicks and floating. Amy Gilbertson, physical education teacher at SVMS, chose to have Runing offer the lessons on Friday because students typically have Fridays free. “Some students are needed by other teachers during Flex and are already scheduled to work with them,” said Gilbertson.  “We try to communicate with teachers about what the students are doing and also schedule them if we feel there is a real need.”

Some students initially expressed reservations about swimming concerned that it interfered with their religious beliefs. However, adjustments such as allowing students to wear particular clothing, or creating opportunities for female students to swim separately from male students have allowed students to feel comfortable.

Runing has noticed that all students, regardless of swimming ability have made great strides since starting the lessons. “I’ve witnessed fears of submerging being broken along with students who have fine-tuned some of their stroke techniques and body positions,” said Runing. Ubah Mohamed, seventh grader at SVMS, appreciates the swim lessons. “I like coming to swimming lessons so I can learn more and grow better,” Mohamed said. “I’ve gotten better at front and backstroke because the teacher for swimming lessons has helped to teach me.”

Ultimately, teaching safety and comfort around water is very important to Runing. “In Minnesota we have access to so many lakes, ponds, and pools,” said Runing. “Given my background, I want to be instrumental in helping these students learn how to swim.”