MizzouRec participates in 'World's Largest Swimming Lesson'

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | 5:14 p.m. CDT; updated 9:19 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Ashley Reinero, 5, right, practices her back float with her fellow classmates — from left, Justin Reinero, 4, Neesa Phadke, 4, and Amelie Crane, 4 — during a Tiger Swim lesson on Tuesday at the MU Student Recreation Center's Tiger Grotto. Tiger Swim students on Tuesday were part of the World's Largest Swimming Lesson, an international event to promote swimming lessons for children.

COLUMBIA — When Kim Oeth of Columbia brought her 3-year-old son, Payton, to his regularly scheduled swim lesson Tuesday morning, she had no idea that he would leave the pool as a world-record holder.

“They just told me about it now,” she said. “I didn’t even know that would exist, but they told me today, and I thought it was neat.”

What makes it a record?

The following criteria must be met at each venue in order for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson to be officially recognized by Guinness World Records:

  1. The lesson must follow the structure of a normal class, and Guinness World Records must approve the lesson plan.
  2. The topics of the lesson must be related to swimming.
  3. The instructor(s) and pupils must remain through the duration of the attempt.
  4. The lesson must last at least 30 minutes.
  5. There must be a witnessing supervisor per every 50 participants, as well as one overall independent witness.
  6. There must be a minimum of 10 venues and at least 25 participants at each location.



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Oeth was one of many parents at the MU Student Recreation Complex Tuesday who learned when they arrived that their children would be participating in what was being called the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson.

The annual event, in its second year, is an international initiative to promote the importance of teaching children to swim in the prevention of drowning.  In 2010, Guinness World Records officially recognized the World's Largest Swimming Lesson as the largest simultaneous swimming lesson ever conducted, with a record of 3,971 participants.

This was MizzouRec’s first year serving as an official host location for the event. The children enrolled in the 10 a.m. lesson group, which is in its second week of instruction, all received a certificate at the completion of the 45-minute lesson declaring them world-record holders.  The official count determined that 37 children participated at the MizzouRec site.

The instructors for Tuesday’s lesson were the same MizzouRec instructors as at any other lesson, but according to MizzouRec intern Courtney Schultz, Tuesday's curriculum was provided by the American Red Cross.  She said it was slightly different and included some additional skills. 

Despite being previously unaware of the initiative, it was well received by many parents at the recreation complex.

“I think it’s exciting and it’s kind of fun,” Oeth said.

David Reinero, whose children Ashley, 5, and Justin, 4, participated in Tuesday’s lesson, said his children are around water often during his family's trips to the West Coast and that he saw enrolling them in swimming lessons as a "no-brainer."

“Using a world record as a way to promote it is a good idea,” he said. “It’s smart to get it out there. Creative idea, if you will.”

From 2003 to 2007, 305 unintentional drowning deaths occurred in Missouri, including 52 children younger than 10 years old, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

MizzouRec swim instructor Caitie Merkle, who was involved in the lesson Tuesday, said her experience as a lifeguard has caused her to support any initiative that helps make children stronger swimmers.

“I’ve been a lifeguard too, and it’s really nerve-wracking to watch the little kids who don’t know how to swim go under,” she said. “I just think it’s really imminent that we teach people how to swim and that everyone’s capable of doing it.”

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