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Students learn water can be fun, risky

Ronny Royhab, a Seneca Valley High School junior and lifeguard, lets Brandon Bullock, 6, paddle around the pool in a kayak after talking about kayak safety Wednesday, May 24, 2023, during Ehrman Crest Elementary School's Water Safety Day at EDCO Park and Pool in Evans City. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

EVANS CITY — With the sweet summertime approaching, the Seneca Valley School District wants to ensure its young students will enjoy a fun and safe season while around ponds, pools, lakes and even the ocean.

First- and second-graders from Ehrman Crest Elementary School in Cranberry Township had their turn Wednesday to participate in the district’s annual Water Safety Day, which sees elementary students take a school bus to a local pool for a variety of lessons.

The event has been held at EDCO Park and Pool since its inception for students who attended the former Evans City Elementary School.

A handful of Seneca Valley Senior High students who are lifeguards assisted with the program, which is coordinated by Chris Eden, an elementary physical education teacher at Ehrman Crest.

“My goal is to develop water competency in the students, so we can prevent drowning from occurring,” Eden said.

He explained that while no youngsters entered the pool, eight stations were set up in the park, poolside and even on Railroad Street beside the pool.

Eight classrooms of first-graders and seven second-grade classrooms, each with about 22 students, rotated between the stations in half-hour increments in their color-coordinated T-shirts.

The stations included subjects to increase the students’ knowledge on water safety.

In the Stages of Drowning station, students learned the difference between a distressed swimmer, passive drowning and active drowning.

At the Touch A Truck station, Lt. Brian Greenawalt, of Evans City Volunteer Fire Department, lead the students around the truck, showing them the hoses, saws, ropes and other rescue equipment firefighters use at a rescue scene.

“We do all kinds of different stuff, not just putting out fires,” Greenawalt told the kids.

After explaining the large, yellow tanker’s control panel, which allows firefighters to run the water pump and hose, Greenawalt allowed the delighted students to climb into the truck at the back door.

“We have seat belts just like in your car,” he pointed out to the students standing upright in the back of the large truck.

Harmony Fire District personnel showed students the bulky turnout gear worn by firefighters and allowed a few students to step into a pair of fireman’s boots so they could pull up the fireproof pants and place the suspenders over the tiny shoulders of the children.

At the Home Pool Safety station in a pavilion in EDCO Park, a secondary student asked the youngsters what they should do if no one is home and there is a swimming pool at their location. The correct answer was immediately given by one student, who said not to go in the pool.

The students also learned to throw something that floats into a pool, yell for help or call 911 of someone is struggling. They also were told never to jump in to help.

Grayson Badaracco, 6, said he swims in his uncle’s pool or at EDCO in the summer.

He said he appreciated the information he got at all the stations.

“I learned you shouldn’t go into the pool to save someone,” Grayson said. “I also learned that (firetrucks) have axes.”

The Head, Neck and Back Injury station detailed concussions and other injuries that could result from swimming and diving.

“The students will understand why it is important not to run on the pool deck,” Eden said. “It could turn into a drowning.”

The Open Water Emergency station taught students to never dive into a natural waterway, how to get out of a rip current, and other lifesaving information.

“You allow the rip current to take you out, then you swim out around it,” Eden said.

Other stations included Lifeguarding and Swim Strokes.

Probably the most popular station with the kids was Boating Safety, where Ronny Royhab, Seneca Valley Senior High junior and seven-year swim team member, addressed the students from hip-deep water.

After a short talk about boating safety, Royhab asked who wanted to get into one of two kayaks donated by Public Lands in Cranberry Township.

Brandon Bullock, 6, was one of the lucky students who got to float around the pool in the colorful craft under the careful tutelage of Royhab.

Brandon got to paddle the kayak around before surrendering it to the next lucky student.

“OK, everybody clap for our friend!” Royhab said as a beaming Brandon climbed out of the boat and onto the pool deck.

“It was a piece of cake,” Brandon said of paddling a boat more than three times his size. “It got me a little wet, though.”

McKenzie VanIddekinge, a Seneca Valley senior and EDCO lifeguard, helped with Water Safety Day last year as well.

“I feel it’s important for kids to learn about water safety and be prepared,” McKenzie said. “One of the most important things they will learn is how to spot a lifeguard and learning about pool rules.”

After performing a mock rescue with the student lifeguards, Eden delighted the students by performing the perfect cannonball into the deep end of the pool.

“This should be fun and enjoyable and develop a basic water competency in the students,” Eden said.

Lt. Brian Greenawalt, of the Evans City Area Volunteer Fire Department, shows the kids where the pump on the engine is located Wednesday, May 24, 2023, during Ehrman Crest Elementary School's Water Safety Day at EDCO Park and Pool in Evans City. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
Ayla Jugan, 6, tries on a Evans City Area Volunteer Fire Department helmet Wednesday, May 24, 2023, during Ehrman Crest Elementary School's Water Safety Day at EDCO Park and Pool in Evans City. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
Lifeguard McKenzie VanIddekinge talks with some of the children Wednesday, May 24, 2023, during Ehrman Crest Elementary School's Water Safety Day at EDCO Park and Pool in Evans City. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
Children wait around the pool Wednesday, May 24, 2023, during Ehrman Crest Elementary School's Water Safety Day at EDCO Park and Pool in Evans City. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

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