The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 7, 2014

North Ridge group to compete in global contest

The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — The drowning deaths of two Danville children last July spurred North Ridge Middle School’s Future Problem Solvers to tackle the issue of water safety within their own community.

“We had two drowning (incidents) that happened last summer, and we don’t want that to happen again,” seventh-grader Crystina Wayne said.

“Through our research we found that professional swimming lessons are marketed as a luxury not a necessity,” she added.

During the school year, the group of sixth- through eighth-graders tried out the dry land water safety courses they developed and wrote letters to State Rep. Chad Hays to appeal to him to make professional swimming lessons for all elementary school-aged children in Illinois a state law and to provide community funding to support the lessons.

“Everyone put in about 200 hours each on this project,” Crystina said.

It turned out to be time well spent.

The group’s project, titled “Liquid Lifesavers: Dry Out Drowning by Teaching Water Safety Smarts,” beat out other Future Problem Solvers groups statewide to earn the privilege of representing Illinois in their age division at the Future Problem Solvers International competition next Thursday through June 15 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. This is the sixth time that the North Ridge group has participated in the Future Problem Solving Program.

The competition draws about 9,000 young future problem solvers in three age divisions — elementary, junior and senior — from around the globe.

The North Ridge students always compete in the community problem solving category. At the competition next week, the group will be judged on their project, with judges also interviewing the students and asking them questions about their project.

North Ridge math teacher Lori Woods, who is the groups’ adviser, said this year’s Liquid Lifesavers project focuses on these main goals: educate the community about the dangers of swimming in public places and at home; educate the community about water safety, swimming smarts and the basics of swimming; create a community of CPR-certified first responders; and inform the community about the dangers of natural waterways and dams and provide education about cleaner waterways.

“We wanted to revitalize the Splash program the district used to have for second-graders, so we developed dry land water safety courses,” eighth-grader Peyton Blodgett said.

“They used research to develop the program,” Woods said.

The North Ridge group then tried out the dry land water safety courses on about 500 school-aged children at the Danville Family YMCA, Garfield Park, North Ridge and South View middle schools, Cannon Elementary School and all of the elementary schools that feed into North Ridge.

Sixth-grader Delsie Robinson said the courses engaged youngsters in fun yet educational activities, such as a life jacket relay and other games that reviewed water safety information.

Peyton said the group would like a six- to eight-week swim program, which would cost about $60 per child, to be offered for free or at a reduced cost for Danville area children.

“Sixty-six percent of drowning cases are children under 3,” Peyton said. “We should be hitting the kids early in preschool to third grade.”

The North Ridge group said they were shocked when they surveyed the students during their school visits to try out the dry land courses and found that 47 percent of those elementary and middle school students didn’t know how to swim.

“Everyone needs to know how to swim,” Crystina said.

Peyton added, “They are 88 percent less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons.”

Also as part of their Liquid Lifesavers project, all of the Future Problem Solvers members became CPR certified and cleaned up around Stoney Creek at Winter Park before Northeast Elementary Magnet School’s Colorburst 5K run in April.

TO DONATE The North Ridge Middle School Future Problem Solvers is still short some of the money needed to attend the five-day Future Problem Solvers International competition next week at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. It costs about $600 per student to attend. Donations toward the trip may be made to the local Future Problem Solvers group by contacting North Ridge teacher Lori Woods at 444-3458 or