Third grade girls from Harborview Elementary School swim from a sinking boat as they learn water safety at the Augustus Brown Public Swimming Pool on Friday. Helping teach are Coast Guard Auxiliary members Mark Hunt, left, and Stu Robards, center, and current Coast Guard Chief Chief Warrant Officer Rick Nieves.

Third grade girls from Harborview Elementary School swim from a sinking boat as they learn water safety at the Augustus Brown Public Swimming Pool on Friday. Helping teach are Coast Guard Auxiliary members Mark Hunt, left, and Stu Robards, center, and current Coast Guard Chief Chief Warrant Officer Rick Nieves.

Youngsters learn a lesson about survival

The boat was flooding, and the third-graders were screaming: Just as planned.

Augustus Brown Pool hosted dozens of third-graders from Harborview Elementary on Friday for a state-organized Kids Don’t Float lesson.

Since 1996, the program has conducted lessons across the state, teaching kids ages 5-18 about the importance of water safety.

“Statewide, wherever we’re invited, we’ll go,” said Kelli Toth, who organizes the program in the state office of boating safety.

This week, the program was invited by Harborview Elementary to talk to third-graders. On Thursday, Toth worked in the morning with volunteers, teaching them how to teach kids.

In the afternoon, it was the kids’ turn to learn in the classroom. Play-based lessons gave way on Friday morning to pool time.

Augustus Brown was divided into different stations. In one, kids were asked to jump into the pool with clothes on, the better to see what it would be like to fall into the water from a boat.

Another station invited the third-graders to put life jackets on incorrectly, showing them why they must be worn tightly.

A third station involved a collapsable boat that repeatedly swamped, dumping the third-graders into the warm waters of the pool.

As Toth explained, the idea is to allow kids to experiment in a controlled environment.

Toth is the program’s coordinator, but she relies on a network of volunteer instructors across the state. The civilian Coast Guard Auxiliary and active-duty Coast Guardsmen are frequent contributors.

On Friday, Coast Guardsman Katharine Martorelli was one of the volunteers jumping in and out of the pool. She has participated in Kids Don’t Float lessons across the state — in places like Nome and Dutch Harbor — but never in Juneau.

“I’ve actually never been to this pool,” she said. “It’s really convenient to do it here in Juneau.”

The Kids Don’t Float program is in charge of the loaner lifejackets at lakes and docks across the state, as well as its regular education program.

On Friday, all the third-graders emerged from the water safely, happy and a little smarter, which Toth said is the goal.

“They’re like, ‘we’re going again,’” one volunteer said. “We’re like, ‘no you’re not.’”

To schedule a Kids Don’t Float lesson contact Toth at 269-6042 or kelli.toth@alaska.gov.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Kat Martorelli helps Harborview third-grader Shawna Boone with her life vest during a water safety class at the Augustus Brown Public Swimming Pool on Friday.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Kat Martorelli helps Harborview third-grader Shawna Boone with her life vest during a water safety class at the Augustus Brown Public Swimming Pool on Friday.

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