On April 15, 2019, La Petite Baleen celebrated 40 years of teaching...Read More
The classroom is the center of most children’s learning journeys, and learning to swim is no different. La Petite Baleen is a pioneer in the creation of the Aquatic Classroom, a safe place where swim skills and life skills are taught concurrently.
Since our co-founder Irene Madrid was herself a classroom teacher, it made sense to build LPB’s curriculum on a foundation of what she knew best: child development.
I decided to use a child-development approach to swimming because during WWII my father’s commanding officer (a pediatrician) allowed my father to read his child development books onboard ship. My father, after reading ‘how-to’ books, built a 20′ x 30′ pool in 1949 and used that information with me and my four siblings.
We had old navy fins and goggles (with socks to fit), as sensible propelling aids. I paid attention to my father’s approach and studied/researched further while in college, knowing someday I would have a swim school.
Irene also learned through her college research that captivating a child’s attention included utilizing songs, simple quick games of silliness (in fact, the word silly comes from the word “sacred” and silly is sacred to children), and knowing that child’s play is indeed their work. This focus on fun is a cornerstone of La Petite Baleen’s curriculum.
“I knew through child development that the first 0-5 years a child’s brain is organized for gross motor skills and activities, and that children learn best through movement,” Irene said. Words are a distant second choice when it comes to best practices for teaching younger children. So our Aquatic Classrooms at LPB are designed specifically for helping children learn not only by being told what to do, but by also actually doing it a little bit at a time.
Our teachers go through a month of dry and in-water training in order to provide the best instruction possible. They learn to build their own aquatic classrooms around toys-as-tools, fun, imaginative language, and teaching in easier-to-process layers of skills. To ensure teachers are also able to retain this information, we offer monthly supplemental workshops on all of our swim levels to help them continue to grow and learn, too.
LPB also understands that young children learn through patterned repetition of skills. Patterns are how children process information, and when they understand the pattern framework, they can more easily achieve the skills they are learning.
Each Aquatic Classroom is set up with a variety of fun toys – some that float, some that sink, but each with multiple uses for assisting students with their learning. Beyond fins, goggles, and kickboards (all of which are useful in their own right), you’ll see tubes and noodles to help isolate kicks and foster safe independence as children learn how to move themselves through the water. You’ll see foam animals that float for chasing or for incrementally reducing support for skills. You’ll see sinking toys like pool pals to mark a student’s turn-waiting spot and rings that kids can swim underwater to retrieve, building confidence and breath control at the same time. We have large foam carpets for magic carpet rides and tunnels, and yoga balls for helping students safely feel the proper head-first, feet-last body position for dives. If you look close, you may even spot a long “fire pole” that we use in the deep water for helping students get to the bottom to pick up a treasure.
In a world where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, toys remain an essential tool for nurturing young minds.