'Reach or throw, don't go' is the advice to youngsters who see someone in trouble in the waterIf your friend was in trouble in the water, would you go out and get him?

That was the question Aquatic Supervisor Erin Estes asked 150 fourth-graders before submerging them in a 6-week safety class at the Astoria Aquatic Center.

Eighty percent of fourth graders said "yes."

Now, after learning about water environments, hazards and drowning, Estes believes that number would be closer to 5 percent.

"We're getting through to them," Estes said, as she eyed students floating and splashing in the pools.

After learning about water safety, the students get some free time. Natasha Searls tows Jennifer Mandujano and Ashley Jackson, as Donna Deufel follows.

LORI ASSA - The Daily AstorianPrior to this year, Astoria School District fourth-graders participated in a crash course in swimming, but those lessons ate into classroom time and were expensive to provide. Now students are taking a six-week water safety course that teaches them to know their own limits and how to help a person in trouble without putting themselves in a dangerous situation.

"Especially with the drowning we had last summer, this at least tells them don't jump in," Estes said.

In July, Geevana Rivera, 14, died after jumping into a Columbia River channel to try to save her 10-year-old brother.

Drowning remains the second leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14, and claims the lives of more than 900 children a year, according a childhood drowning study released in April 2004 by the National Safe Kids Campaign and Johnson and Johnson.

Estes said fourth grade is a good time for a water safety class - students are getting daring and starting to experience peer pressure. It's also a good idea to remind kids living at the coast, who are around water all the time, not to take it for granted.

The first few weeks of the course covered personal safety, including survival floating, water hazards, the importance of wearing lifejackets and learning how to swim, the backfloat and how to self-rescue when clothed. They talked about water currents, riptides, sun, heat and hypothermia.

One week, students brought an extra pair of pants and a shirt and jumped in the pool fully clothed. It let kids know what it feels like to fall in with their clothes on so in a real emergency they can keep their wits about them and do what they need to do to get to land, Estes said.

Wearing clothing in the pool was a surprise for Cody Bruton, 10.

"It was hard to keep afloat, because clothes weigh a lot when you're wet," he said.

The students also did a "junk float," where lifeguards threw boating items in the water so kids could learn what could help them float in a boating accident.

The aquatics center has been providing handouts on the material every week - in hopes that the information will migrate home and parents will read it too - and teachers have tested the students in their classes.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

The Lewis and Clark students are lead by Joan Scoggins, one of several instructors, to their spot in the pool for their first rotation Thursday afternoon.Later lessons, such as the one last Thursday, focused on how to rescue other people.

U.S. Coast Guard Airman Jason Connell, who is training to be a rescue swimmer, showed a group of students how two people can rescue a swimmer in shallow water by grabbing underneath the shoulders and using the other hand to support the person's back.

Another instructor warned students to never go deeper in than the chest when trying to rescue someone, and never to reach out a hand because the rescuer can then be pulled into deep water.

Emergency Action Principles1. Survey the scene: Look around to see if the area is safe enough to approach the victim and if it safe to remain in the area; look for clues to what happened; check for bystanders who can help

2. Do a primary survey of the victim: Check the conditions that are an immediate threat to life

3. Phone EMS for help: You or a bystander should call emergency medical services

4. Do a secondary survey of the victim: Check for injuries or other problems"Reach or throw, don't go" is a line the instructors repeat often.

It's a lesson Amanda Koski, 10, took to heart. Now she said that if someone needs rescuing she wouldn't just jump in.

"If they were close enough, I'd reach something out to them or hold on to the edge of the pool," she said.

Danielle Sampson, 10, said the water classes are good because "some people don't know if you get in the water you could get drowned because they could try and climb on top of you."

Connell said the classes are beneficial from a Coast Guard perspective because knowing how rescues work makes a person easier to rescue.

Plus, the classes are fun - and not just for the kids, said Connell, 20, who was playing with noodles and float toys with the kids.

"I'm the youngest guy in the shop, so we still all watch the same TV shows," he said. "It's nice talking to people who know about Spongebob and Simpsons."