Some children floated on kick boards to make their way across the pool. Others clung to a pole while Desy helped pulled them along through the water. Still others swam across the width and length of the pool under the watchful eye of instructors, but without needing guidance.
Those advanced enough swam under water to the bottom of the pool to collect rings, coming up with a giant smile when they were able to retrieve one.
VanderKooi said students are at all different levels, but she's determined to provide training for all of them. Most importantly, she wants all children, regardless of their abilities in the pool, to understand and respect the water and its dangers.
Thornapple Kellogg elementary students in second through fifth grades all receive swim instructions as part of their normal physical education classes. Fourth and fifth graders get swim lessons for four weeks in the fall and the second and third graders take four weeks in the spring. First graders even get introduced during a two-week period in the spring.
"We teach them to be safe and to respect the water. We want them to be safe and understand the dangers of lakes, rivers, ponds, swimming pools - all water," said VanderKooi.
"We have so many lakes and ponds in Barry County and we have so many students who don't know how to swim," she said.
First graders typically learn to get their face in the water and basic safety. By second and third grades, VanderKooi moves on to teaching some basic strokes, while continuing lessons on staying safe in and around the water.
Fourth fifth graders get to practice their stroke skills and learn to be more comfortable in and around the water.
"We see students who don't even want to get in the water they are so afraid. Sometimes they hang on the edge and we just help them get a little more comfortable in the water," said VanderKooi.
She said it's a great program and she's glad TK Schools continue providing this potentially life-saving education for students. "Most kids love water and are attracted to it. We want to make sure they stay safe and know what they can and can't do."
Additional swimming lessons are offered at the high school pool through the Barry County YMCA by calling 945-4574. The pool is also open for family swim time from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Since the program is for all students, VanderKooi said there is a need for donations of bathing suits of all sizes for boys and one-piece suits for girls. Suits, in good condition, can be dropped off at any of the elementary school offices.