A new business in Okemos will make quite a splash in the New Year. Goldfish Swim School, a year-round program for children from 4 months to 12 years of age, offers instruction like none other in the area. Located just off of Marsh Road, Goldfish hosted its first swim classes on Dec. 5 with more than 70 children registered. The facility is state of the art. The pool is tailored for the comfort of the children. The water temperature is kept at 90 degrees, and instead of harsh chlorine, it’s sanitized by a soothing saline and electricity solution. The water depth is shallow — no deeper than 4 and 1/2 feet. Unlike other indoor pools, the air temperature of the pool deck and changing rooms is kept warm, too. “It’s functional for kids’ swimming lessons,” said Rebecca Burlingame, general manager of the Okemos facility. The idea is to have fun, get some exercise and learn the important life skill of water safety at the same time. “Our curriculum specializes in the developmental needs and skill level of each child,” she said. “And working with them to help them progress to the next level.” Students take part in half hour private or group lessons. Group class size is limited to four students per one instructor. According to its promotional brochure, students are grouped by age and ability in one of 12 levels. The youngest — babies from 4-12 months — are enrolled in the Goldfish Mini 1 classes where they’ll “learn to be comfortable and relaxed in the water.” The highest level — Goldfish Pros — learn the USA freestyle, backstroke and butterfly and breast strokes. Since the lessons are year-round, students can naturally progress, “and be less likely to forget what they learned,” Burlingame said. Though it’s new to the Lansing area, the school was founded in 2006 in Birmingham, Mich. Co-founders Jenny and Chris McCuiston developed the unique curriculum from the lessons Jenny learned while teaching swimming classes to children at swim clubs in Birmingham. She saw that children learn best when instruction starts at their skill level and progresses at their own pace on an ongoing basis. Burlingame joined Jenny and her staff at the Birmingham Goldfish Swim School as a swimming instructor in 2010. A trained and competitive swimmer since she attended high school in Birmingham, Burlingame said she is “passionate about swimming and working with children.” As the business grew, with facilities opening up in Rochester, Farmington Hills and Ann Arbor, Burlingame’s opportunities expanded. She became general manager at the Ann Arbor school. “It was awesome to help open it,” she said. Once Ann Arbor’s school was up and running, she came to Okemos to oversee construction, and help hire and train instructors for this area. “All the instructors are carefully screened and cross-trained,” Burlingame said. The Goldfish Swim School is also expanding to other locales in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Burlingame will soon be moving on to oversee the opening of a new school in Grand Rapids. Parents in Okemos and the other locales are eager to sign up their kids because they learn and practice swimming and water safety skills year-round. The “family oriented” facility offers a warm oasis to their families, too, said Burlingame. The Okemos facility has the same rustic beach house décor of the other franchises. Parents can observe the swimming lessons in a spacious area behind a glass wall that overlooks the pool. Siblings can have fun of their own in a children’s play area. There’s a Treasure Island Pro Shop and Snack Shack onsite. The facility is also open for weekly family swim hours. Families can also rent the Goldfish Swim School for private birthday pool parties. With its Caribbean theme and warm atmosphere, the Okemos Goldfish Swim School is a welcome respite from the bitter Michigan winter weather, and provides exercise, fun and essential skills to babies, toddlers and young teens alike.
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.