"Yeah, I CAN  Do That"

by

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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I am a firm believer that much swimming on-scuba without a mask is a necessary component of basic pool training. It is part of my philosophy that minor incidents, such as a flooded mask, should be a mere inconvenience, rather than a life threat. So, my scuba classes always include a variety of no-mask drills.

One of my favorite "damn-I-did-this" type of self discovery exercises is done after students are very comfortable with removing, replacing  and clearing their masks. The exercise is conducted in the following manner:

Students are asked to drop their masks around their neck (my preferred place to keep a mask not being worn over the face), place their regulators in their mouths, descend and swim a few laps around the shallow end of the pool. After completing the laps, the exercise is concluded by replacing and clearing their masks. No further discussion or demo is offered since this is partly an exercise in problem solving. (i.e. the regulator has to be removed before the mask can be properly placed on the face  ... often, this is  not obvious to the student until the end of the exercise).

The first time I tried this exercise, a student, having completed the laps, stood up and looked a me ... a bit confused. I asked why he had surfaced. He responded, holding his regulator in his hand, "I had to .... Wait!  Yeah, I CAN  do that!"  He then put the regulator in his mouth, descended and finished the exercise. He surfaced with a big grin (which I interpret as the smile that is derived from self achievement.)

This exercise is now called, "The Pete" in his honor. (I have a number of pool exercises that are named for such incidents of self-discovery or, in many cases, a suggestion from a student for another possible task.)

The points are:  

1. Self-discovery is one of the best methods of teaching scuba in-water skills. Allowing a student to discover a task can be done is much better than a just doing a demo and moving on. Skills learned by self-discovery are better retained. Our role as instructors is more than to demonstrate skills ...our role is to provide a series of events that allow the student to discover their own abilities. Since they do NOT breathe water, our task is to assist THEIR learning by providing a safe, structured environment in which to learn.

2. Pride of accomplishment is a powerful motivator.

3. Complex tasks are best taught with a series of ever increasing complexity, so that each step in problem solving is successful.

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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2022 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

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Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education