Create a Lifelong Impact With Free Water Safety Education

Helping keep students safe goes beyond the classroom and campus setting. As schools let out for the summer and summer camps begin, there are a few ways to help students stay safer in, on or around the water.

Why is water safety so important? The statistics tell the story. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14 (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Prevention education is key to saving lives — and early water safety education can have a lifelong impact.

One way to prevent drowning is to teach children about being safer in, on and around the water — and do it in a fun, entertaining and memorable way. That’s why the American Red Cross revamped its Longfellow’s Water Safety for Children program for this summer. The program is being offered for free to educators, camp counselors and anyone who teaches groups of children.

The letters in WHALE stand for Water Habits Are Learned Early. WHALE Tales is designed to help children from all backgrounds in kindergarten through 5th grade learn vital water safety behaviors — without having to be at a swimming pool.

Anyone Can Teach WHALE Tales — Anywhere

No special certification is required to teach this material. The only teaching prerequisite is to familiarize yourself with the content and materials — no prior knowledge of water safety or swimming ability is required. It’s perfect for end-of-year or over-the-summer lessons taught by teachers, coaches, youth program leaders and others.

The lessons focus on important water safety behaviors in different environments such as pools, waterparks, oceans, lakes and rivers. The program includes interactive, fun group activities with live-action videos featuring a cast of diverse characters, environments and situations.

The WHALE Tales program is divided into three sections:

  1. Being Water Smart: The Basics
    Lesson 1: Do your part, be water smart
    Lesson 2: Swim as a pair with a lifeguard there
    Lesson 3: First look around. Is the scene safe and sound?
    Lesson 4: Don’t just pack it, wear your life jacket
  2. A Deeper Dive into How to be Water Smart
    Lesson 5: Play it smart at your home, pool or park
    Lesson 6: Wave, river or tide, water smarts are your guide
  3. Being Water Smart in an Emergency
    Lesson 7: Think so you don’t sink
    Lesson 8: Reach or throw, don’t go

The lessons are accompanied by a cutout of Longfellow the Whale — or, as we affectionately know him, “Flat Longfellow.” Download Flat Longfellow and encourage students to take a photo or make fun crafts with him or take Flat Longfellow on an adventure where they are practicing water safety behaviors. Invite students to share stories and ask them to recount what they learned from Longfellow’s WHALE Tales program.

Teaching resources are available to download for free:

  • Lesson plans
  • Course presentations
  • Live action and animated videos
  • Posters
  • Coloring sheets
  • Activity sheets

When you’ve finished each section, send kids home with letters to their caregivers for each lesson to help engage the entire family in learning how to enjoy the water safely.

Finally, after teaching the lessons, we encourage you to record your outreach using a special tracking survey. Every student counts in helping us track our impact in the goal of making water safety accessible for all.

A Long-Standing Background in Water Safety Education

Water safety has been a long-standing part of the American Red Cross mission, and we encourage everyone to be “water smart” to help prevent drowning. You’ll see that in the names of the different sections and lessons for WHALE Tales. The term water smart means being safer in, on and around water and knowing what to do in a water emergency.

Red Cross water safety programs, swim lessons and lifeguard training are making a significant difference. In the last century, since adding drowning prevention to its mission, the Red Cross has helped to reduce accidental drownings by nearly 90% nationwide.

Teach Children About Safer Behavior in and Around the Water

Whether you’re looking for an end-of-the-year lesson plan or plan to teach a group this summer, take advantage of this engaging, no-cost program today. Join us and Longfellow the Whale in delivering vital life-saving lessons.

Go to to learn more about the program, download the free digital program materials and report on how you’ve used them.

This post is promoted content from American Red Cross Training Services. Each year, the American Red Cross and its training providers teach more than 2.5 million people to swim, helping to keep individuals and families safer in, on and around the water. It’s making a difference. Since adding drowning prevention to its mission in 1914, the Red Cross has helped to reduce accidental drownings by nearly 90% nationwide. To learn more, please visit us online.

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