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Water awareness

Possible learning activities

  • Having assessed the water depth and related this to the different heights of class members, students can practise ways to enter the water in different conditions. These could include:
    • wading in using the pool steps
    • descending a ladder with the student’s back to the water
    • sliding into the pool from a sitting position, using their arms to control the rate of descent. Students should progress from entering with their back to the water to entering facing the water.

Students should practise a range of exits from the pool using both leg and arm strength. Initially such exits may require partner support (1A3).

  • Students need confidence to be able to complete crouch jump entries successfully. Older students or adults may be used to ensure that students return quickly to a standing position after entry.

If it is appropriate and carefully supervised, entries into natural water environments, such as rivers, swimming holes, and ponds may be attempted. If students are taken to the beach for a beach education programme, such as BeachEd, surf lifeguards could be asked to show students how to enter the surf safely.

  • Prepare a class chart linking types of entry to appropriate water situations. This could be supplemented with teacher-devised board games, such as an aquatic version of snakes and ladders, that reinforce safe practices. 
  • Introduce students to a range of rescue strategies on land by practising throwing and reaching skills, initially in the school grounds and later in shallow water.
  • Students can throw a range of buoyant objects, such as kickboards, plastic containers, and balls, at targets on dry land, scoring for accuracy and consistency. They can use the same techniques to aim at plastic hoops floating in the water. Students can practise reaching a partner with both rigid and non-rigid objects, initially on dry land and later in the water. Students should experience dry land rescues from the perspectives of both offering and receiving assistance. Broom handles, cricket bats, hockey sticks, and paddles are ideal rigid objects. Towels, T-shirts, and other items of clothing are readily available and are appropriate non-rigid objects (2A3).
  • Introduce a range of floating objects, such as lilos, tubes, rafts, and boogie boards, while stressing the dangers of misuse.
  • Students can experiment with a range of items that provide varying degrees of buoyancy support in the water and that may be held in different positions to assist floating on both front and back.
  • Teach students how to fit life jackets, first on dry land and then in shallow water.
  • Invite someone from the community to teach students in the swimming pool how to make safe exits from and re-entries into canoes and small boats. Provide students with opportunities to practise these.
  • Have students observe and illustrate the distinctive uniforms of lifeguards in both the pool and in open water locations.
  • As locations near water are appealing places for young students, construct a class chart with the students to define safe practices, especially with tides, rips, and currents.

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will:

  • enter and exit the water using an appropriate method (1A3)
  • demonstrate an ability to give and to accept help in an aquatic environment (2A3)
  • identify aquatic environments where students can play safely (1B4)
  • identify where to get help in an aquatic environment (1D2).

Assessment opportunity

Complete an assessment checklist of competencies when entering and exiting water in different environments (1A3).


(particularly taha tinana and taha hinengaro)

Learning that feeling and acting safely can contribute to personal well-being.

Health Promotion

Planning and taking action to ensure the well-being of self and others in the aquatic environment.

Teachers Notes

  • These experiences help to develop each student’s ability to take increasing responsibility for their own health and safety (self-management skills).
  • Safe entries and exits are vitally important as these are times when confidence can be lost.
  • Many of the activities suggested can be practised on dry land before students enter the water.
  • Check the water depth using a broom handle and show the students where the water level will be.
  • Teachers should stress the skills of both providing and receiving assistance. These include knowing when it is appropriate to provide direct assistance and when it is more appropriate to seek help.
  • Diving is not recommended, especially when water conditions are unknown.
  • Teachers should link safety procedures used during class time to the local aquatic environments so that students are fully aware of the power of water and of the need for safe practices.