To say Meadow Elementary School pupils are wet behind the ears would be a gross understatement.
The school's third- through sixth-graders are wet all over at times because they have something none of the pupils at any of the city's five other grade school's get when it comes to physical education class: swimming.
For the past three years or so, physical education teacher Debbie Giglia has marched her students next door to North Tonawanda High School during part of the school year so they can use the pool. Both schools are on the district's Meadow Drive campus.
"Presently we are the only elementary school to have a swimming curriculum," Giglia said. "It's just the luck of location.
"We're right nearby and we've taken advantage of that. And our superintendent, our administrators and the high school staff have cooperated by freeing up time so we can use the pool, and have helped us get lifeguards so we can give the kids this opportunity."
Giglia said she and fellow physical education teacher Patrick Kennedy pushed for a swimming curriculum.
"I did it because the kids love the pool," Giglia said. "So it made sense to have them learning how to swim at an age when they really love to be there. It lets them learn at the same time they're having fun."
Even more important, Giglia said, "This helps prepare them as they get older in a place like North Tonawanda where they are practically surrounded by water. We feel it's important to teach them how to be safe in the water."
With the younger children, Giglia said she has definite goals she tries to achieve.
"The big thing is we try to make them comfortable in the water by giving them a lot of free time to have fun," she said. "We also spend time talking about how they can keep themselves safe and keep their friends safe, and teach them general safety rules on how to conduct themselves at a pool. Things like just walking, no running, no pushing or shoving."
Last week, she was teaching her pupils to float. Two third-grade classes looked mighty comfortable in the pool.
"I like it because I get to swim and play with my friends," said Lauren Fezer, 9.
Margaret Millar, 9, said she liked it "because we get to be with our friends and get to jump off the deck into the water."
Brandon Tylec, 8, said he liked it "because it gives you a lot of exercise, and it's fun to swim and float. I can float and can go pretty far if I use my arms. I learned how to do that from my mom."
Rebecca Scutt, 8, said, "I just learned how to swim this summer so I get to come here and practice. Right now all I can do is doggie paddle."
Victoria Ippolito, 8, said, "I love swimming under water. I can go pretty deep -- about 7 feet -- if they would let me."
Victoria said she started swimming when she was 2 years old.
"I can go a good distance under water," she said. "It's really fun and you don't get sweaty because you're under water."
Giglia said her pupils have had less swimming this year than usual -- an average of four classes -- because the district has been doing work on the pool. Normally, she said, the swim curriculum runs twice a week for six weeks.
She said it is gratifying to hear some pupils remark on how swimming is good exercise.
"As elementary school teachers, we get to see our students for seven years so we have a better chance of helping them to learn the importance of having a healthy lifestyle . . .," she said.
"These are really formative years and we always try to stress things like the importance of exercise and point out interesting ways to exercise."