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Ready Set Swim!

| California

Aug 11, 2017

The “Ready, Set, Swim” program is a fun and innovative way to combine physical activity, nutrition education, and water safety all in one.

The abundance of pools in the Coachella Valley, along with countless child drownings and near drownings, prompted several local organizations to come together. They developed a program to provide children with lifelong water safety skills, and promote good nutrition and physical activity.

With the help of the City of Palm Springs and the Desert Healthcare Foundation, funds were raised to implement the program. Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD), Desert Recreation District, the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, and Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, provided essential components. They provided transportation, swim instructors and facilities to make this collective partnership function seamlessly. Student and adult nutrition education was provided using SNAP-Ed materials developed by the California Department of Public Health.

The “Ready, Set, Swim” program is aimed at third graders. It is designed as an eight-day afterschool program hosted at local Boys and Girls Clubs and pools. Children attend two hours a day over the course of two weeks: one hour focused on swimming skills and physical activity, and the second hour focused on nutrition education.

children in a swimming pool

During the two-week sessions, children and family members participated in a wealth of nutrition activities, including

  • ReThink Your Drink (RYD)
  • Harvest of the Month
  • PowerPlay
  • MyPlate with taste tests of various fruits and vegetables.

At the program graduation, a parent component of a RYD class was offered in English and Spanish.

The “Ready, Set, Swim” program graduated a total of 441 children during its initial year. The success of the “Ready, Set, Swim” program caught the attention of local media, and was featured in local television news and newspapers. Nominated by the Riverside University Health System - Public Health, the program was featured in a success story video produced by the University of California San Diego Center for Community Health and Lan Media Productions.

Future plans for the program are very promising. Local organizations and the PSUSD have committed to support the program indefinitely. They are seeking potential partners and funding to expand the program to the other schools and community pools throughout the Coachella Valley. Future plans include water safety classes for parents from trained personnel such as emergency first responders and the Injury Prevention Program.

Program Success

The Ready, Set, Swim program has graduated a total of 1,872 students in 3 years.

  • 85% of students demonstrated an increase of at least 5 new skills in their assigned level, from pre to post test.
  • 93% of the students demonstrated an increase of at least 3 new skills in their assigned level, from pre to post test.

As of June 2017, 14 desert-area elementary schools have participated in the Ready, Set, Swim program.

children watching a nutrition educator

Type of Program

Physical Activity Promotion and Nutrition Education

Years of Implementation

The first year was 2014/15, for elementary schools in Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs.
In 2015/16, the program expanded to include schools in Cathedral City.
2016/17 was the third year of implementation, in all three cities.

Number of Participants

2014/15: 441 students
2015/16: 709 students
2016/17: 722 students

Target Audience

Third grade students from SNAP-Ed eligible schools in the Palm Springs Unified School District.

Program Evaluation

Each participating 3rd grade student is given a swim skills pre-test at the beginning of their 8-day class for group assignment to Level 1, 2 or 3 (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced). At the end of the 8-day program, a post-test is administered to measure their improvement. The pre/post test and swimming instruction is based on the American Red Cross’: Learn-to-Swim program, an evidence-based curriculum.

Submitted by the California Department of Public Health, a SNAP-Ed State Agency. For further information please contact: Alejandro Espinoza or 760-323-6166.