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Discussion, research and interview

Student activities

Task no. 1

Discussion questions

Reflect on your own experiences of swimming. Make notes in response to the following questions:

  • How did you learn to swim?
  • Where did your lessons take place?
  • Who taught you to swim?
  • What types of flotation devices did you use to learn to swim?
  • Were any of these objects not designed to be used as flotation devices for people learning to swim?
  • Make a list of these flotation devices and share them with the group.
  • When might you have to wear a flotation device? List some situations where people might be required by law to wear or have a flotation device with them.
Tin can used as a floatation device in learn-to-swim class, Domain Baths, ca. 1925-ca. 1950
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[Old Domain Baths], 1881 / E f B [Image view], 1881
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Crowds of children learning to swim, 1930s ?
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Mens' swimming at the Domain Baths, 1930s ?
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Eight divers make an aerial pattern as they leave the high tower, Domain Baths, Jan 1935
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Task no. 2

Research and Interview

Talk to your parents or grandparents, or to relatives or neighbours who belong to a different generation to you. Make notes in response to the following interview questions:

  • How old were you when you learnt to swim?
  • How did you learn to swim? 
  • Where did you learn to swim?
  • Who taught you to swim?
  • Where did you swim as a child?
  • Did you ever use a flotation device?
  • What sorts of flotation devices did you use?
  • How has learning to swim changed since you were a child? How is it the same?

Share your findings with the group.

Task no. 3

Brainstorming activity

In Sam Hood’s photograph an old tin can was cleverly used to create a flotation device for a young swimmer.

Make a list of other materials or methods you could use to construct a flotation device for a young person learning to swim.

Write each new object or method that could be used to help a child float on a new line.

Try to brainstorm at least twenty objects or methods. 

There are no right or wrong answers.

NB: Please do not try any of these methods at home!

In contemporary Australia there are strict safety standards for any object that is sold or used as a flotation device. Things were very different in the 1930s!  Always swim when you are being supervised by an adult. Never enter the water alone.


Look over your list. Circle one idea that you think MOST people in the group might have. Share this with a group.

Make a tally on the board to see which idea was shared by the greatest number of people in the group.