Swimming Lessons


The City of Medicine Hat proudly offers swim instruction and water safety lessons for all ages, at both the Big Marble Go Centre (BMGC) and Crestwood Recreation Centre (CRC), as well as outdoor pools in the summer months. Below, you can learn about our youth programs, private lessons, and even leadership training to become a lifeguard.

Register for swimming lessons

The Canadian Red Cross announced in early 2022 that it was terminating its water safety programming December 31, 2022. The City of Medicine Hat is now an independent authorized provider of Starfish Swimming Canada swim and water safety lessons. To find out which lesson is right for you, view the Conversion Chart to see how your Red Class levels transition to the new program and visit the FAQs below.

Red Cross to Starfish swim lesson conversion chart  All lessons conversion chart    Swim lesson flow chart  Frequently asked questions

Starfish Swimming Canada

The Starfish Swimming curriculum is designed for students aged 6-months to adult. Benchmarks are established at each stage in the program that combine both swimming and safety skills. Students participate in experiential learning activities that allow them to explore the water in a creative and comfortable environment. Correct swimming techniques are taught from the very beginning, providing an easy transition to swim team.

Chart showing progression of swim courses

If unsure what class to register your child in for swimming lessons, we do swim assessments free of charge. Please call 403-525-8926 or email us to set up a time.


Parented: StarBabies™ and StarTots™
Cartoon star mascot wearing red tank top and wavingThe purpose of this course is to develop in very young children a high comfort level in the water while at the same time training the adults who accompany them in water safety and drowning prevention. This course does not teach children to become accomplished swimmers or to survive in the water; it does provide a confidence-building, fun, and loving experience. One adult must be in the water with each child. Swim diapers are required. 
StarBabies™ - ages 6-18 months

StarBabies provides an orientation to water for babies and their parent/caregiver. The goal is to help babies gain comfort in the water and to teach parents/caregivers body position and submersion.

Swim benchmarks include being relaxed in the water on front, back, vertical and side as well as entering the water with a submerge and exiting. 

StarTots™ - ages 18-36 months 

StarTots provides an orientation to water for babies and their parent/caregiver. Swimmers work on air recovery and rollover, as well as forward movement.

The swim benchmarks include submerging off the wall, coming to surface and getting into back position, along with moving through the water independently.  


Starfish Swim School™

Designed to meet the needs of children ages 3 and up, this course will develop a high comfort level in the water and a readiness to swim, and for those children who are developmentally ready, it will teach functional swim skills. This class approaches teaching swimming through creative, fun activities in the water. Students work toward developing the five competencies and progress toward achieving the benchmarks at their own pace in a small-group setting. 

Once a swimmer has completed all levels of Swim School, proceed to Starfish Stroke School.

White - ages 3-5 and 6+View our Storm Water Management page
Introductory level where the focus is on readiness. Swimmers will learn to ask permission to enter the water and submerge under water.
Red - ages 3-5 and 6+white and red swimming badges

This level focuses on body positions and air exchange. Skills include float and kicking. Skill benchmark is a jump in and getting onto back to breathe for 5 seconds.

YellowView our Storm Water Management page

The yellow level focuses on forward movement and direction change. Skills includes surface support, beginner stroke on front and back and direction changes in water.

  • Safety benchmark: tread water 10 seconds
  • Skill benchmark: swim-roll-swim

Yellow is best for swimmers who are not afraid, can float on their front and back, and can jump in and return to the surface.

BlueBlue swimming lesson badge

The blue level focuses on streamlined movement and side breathing. Skills include glides with kicks, and a focus on side glides and rolls. 

  • Safety benchmark: use floatation to reach or throw to assist a swimmer and know how to call 911
  • Skill benchmarks: 10m side glide - roll - side glide with rhythmic breathing; 30 second water tread; 25m distance swim

Blue is best for participants who can float, swim a beginner stroke and roll from front to back and back to front with no assistance.

GreenGreen swimming badge

The green level focuses on water competency. Skills include head first entries, freestyle drills, kicking drills and treading water.

  • Safety benchmark: disorienting entries and recover
  • Skill benchmark: freestyle with side breathing and a safe swimmer sequence

Green is best for swimmers who can tread water for at least 20 seconds, can glide in all positions and is comfortable in the deep water.


Starfish Stroke School™ 

This course is for students of all ages who have achieved the green Swim School benchmarks. Students develop endurance, refine freestyle and learn stroke technique for backstroke, butterfly, and breaststroke. 

Each lesson is option, but for optimal learning and results, they should be taken in the following order:

Freestyle and Backstrokewhite swimming badge

Focus is on learning these two strokes and with their corresponding drills. 

  • Skill benchmark: swim Freestyle and Backstroke for 25m each
Resting Strokes (Elementary Backstroke and Sidestroke)red swimming badge

In Resting Strokes, focus is on Elementary Backstroke and Sidestroke. The skill benchmark is 25m swim of each stroke. 

  • Skill benchmark: swim Elementary Backstroke and Sidestroke for 25m each
Butterflyyellow swimming badge

The yellow course focuses on learning the Butterfly stroke.

  • Skill benchmark: swim Butterfly for 10m
BreaststrokeBlue swimming lesson badge

In blue, swimmers will focus on learning the Breaststroke.

  • Safety benchmark: survival swim for 2 minutes
  • Skill benchmark: swim Breaststroke for 25m 
EnduranceGreen swimming badge

In this class, swimmers focus on endurance, starts and turns.

  • Safety benchmark: tread water for 3 minutes
  • Skill benchmark: swim 300 continuous meters


If you are registering a swimmer that requires adaptations or specialized services, please contact us. We look forward to working with you and your swimmer to create a positive experience.

Register for swimming lessons


Private lessons

Private lessons are a great way to acquire those last few skills needed to pass a swim level or introduce a reluctant swimmer to the water. Our qualified instructors will assess skill level and provide personalized instruction to help you achieve your goals. These lessons are not intended to complete a full lesson set and there is no guarantee that you will have the same instructor when booking more than one private session.

Because of water depth, different pools have different minimum age requirements for private lessons to ensure success:

  • Crestwood Recreation Centre – 8 years old
  • Big Marble Go Centre – 5 years old

View available lessons


Become a lifeguard

Lifeguards are highly skilled and trained individuals. To become a lifeguard you must be 16 years of age and have the following courses:

Standard First Aid CRP-C

Learn the foundational skills to treat an ill or injured person. Standard First Aid is a prerequisite for many lifeguard preparation classes and does not need to be taken at an aquatic facility.

Length: 16 to 30 hours

Bronze Medallion

If you're a strong swimmer, enjoy working with people and are motivated towards a job as a lifeguard, start here. Bronze Medallion teaches an understanding of the lifesaving principles embodied in the four components of water rescue education: judgement, knowledge, skill, and fitness. Rescuers learn tows and carries, and defense and release methods in preparation for challenging rescues of increased risk involving conscious and unconscious victims. Lifesavers in Bronze Medallion develop stroke efficiency and endurance in a timed swim.


  • Age: 13+
  • Standard First Aid Level C CPR

Length: 16 hours

Bronze Cross

Bronze Cross is designed for lifesavers who want the challenge of more advanced training, including an introduction to safe supervision in aquatic facilities. The course continues to increase fitness and first air intensities while working on tows, rescues, carries and spinal management.


  • Bronze Medallion
  • Standard First Aid Level C CPR

Length: 20 hours

National Lifeguard

National Lifeguard certification is Canada's professional lifeguard standard and a final intensive course on your journey to becoming a lifeguard. National Lifeguard training develops a sound understanding of lifeguarding principles, good judgment, and a mature and responsible attitude towards the lifeguard's role. National Lifeguard training emphasizes prevention and effective rescue response in emergencies including first aid treatment. Candidates develop teamwork, leadership and communication skills. Fitness requirements include a timed object recovery, 50 m sprint challenge, 50 m rescue drill and 400 m endurance challenge.


  • Age: 16+
  • Bronze Cross
  • Standard First Aid Level C CPR certificate

Length: 40 hours

Lifeguards have the opportunity to take specialty courses following their National Lifeguard certification, including:

  • National Lifeguard Waterpark (waves, slides and multiple pools)
  • National Lifeguard Waterfront (lakes and rivers)

Program details and registration

Become a Starfish Swimming Instructor

This course develops instructional ability by focusing on how to effectively plan and teach the Starfish Canada swimming program. There is a skills evaluation, an online learning component, a classroom/pool component and practical teaching experience with a certified instructor. Certification is valid for 2 years.


  • 15 years old
  • Standard First Aid Level C CPR (current)

Program details and registration

Become a Lifesaving Instructor

The Lifesaving Swim Instructor course prepares candidates to instruct swimming lessons by learning progressions, strokes, games and safety items. Lifesaving instructors are responsible for teaching and evaluating candidates participating in the Canadian Swim Patrol, Bronze Medals, Distinction, Boat Rescue and Lifesaving Society CPR programs. The Lifesaving Instructor course prepares instructors to apply level 1 leadership competencies and strategies designed to teach lifesaving and water rescue education. Certification in Alberta and NWT includes CPR Instructor certification. 

Lifesaving Instructor certification is the prerequisite for other Lifesaving Society instructor certifications.


  • Age: 16+ 
  • Bronze Cross (or higher)

Length: 40 hours plus additional co-teach

Program details and registration


Frequently asked questions

Why are we switching swim lesson providers? 
The Canadian Red Cross announced in May 2022 that they will no longer be supporting their swimming lesson curriculum as of December 31, 2022.  Since May, we have conducted extensive research to select the best swim program for our community.
Which new swim program was chosen? 
Starting January 2023, we are an independent authorized provider of Starfish Swimming Canada swim and water safety lessons. This is a new program to Canada, originally based in the United States. Starfish Swimming offers swim lessons in over 25 countries all over the year.
What are the differences between Red Cross to Starfish Swimming? 
The biggest difference that registrants will notice is the switch from numbered lessons to colours. Starfish Swimming Canada continues our commitment to teach swim and water safety skills to children starting at a young age.
What does the new program look like? 

There are three categories of lessons in Starfish Swimming Canada:

  • Parented
  • Swim School, and
  • Stroke School

Parented has two levels based on age, Swim School has four different lesson types (White/Red, Yellow, Blue and Green) and Stroke School has five different lesson types (White, Red, Yellow, Blue and Green). 

What are the teacher/student ratios? 
Ratios for swimming lessons will be comparable to what was previously offered with Red Cross swimming lessons. Student to teacher ratios will be appropriate based on safety and skill level.
How will parents know what lesson to put their child in? 

We've prepared this handy conversion guide based on the last lesson passed in the Red Cross program.

If you've previously taken lessons at the YMCA or in Redcliff (with Lifesaving Society), use this chart.

Can a swimmer skip a level in Swim School or Stroke School? 
The program is designed to complete one lesson at a time in the order recommended by Starfish Swimming Canada. If you are not sure what lesson to register in, please use the conversion chart or call 403-502-8566 to book an assessment.
What happens if someone registers in the wrong lesson? 
As we are doing now, swimmers will be accommodated to the best of our availability. We are unable to guarantee that we will be able to switch a swimmer’s lesson based on registering for the wrong lesson. 
Will the guards provide assessments for those who are not sure what lesson to join?
We will start a waiting list for anyone wanting to do an assessment. If there is enough interest, we will host an assessment day that would allow swimmers to come to the BMGC and have an assessment, so they know what lesson to register for starting December 6. 
How will swimmers be evaluated? 
Swimmers will be evaluated by their instructor as they currently are with the use of a hard copy report card. When they meet the benchmarks within the lessons, they will be ready to move to the next level. 
What are the benefits of using Starfish Swimming Canada?

The skills taught by Starfish Swimming Canada focus more on benchmark evaluations rather than skill proficiency. It is beneficial developmentally for swimmers.

We are able to place more swimmers in lessons (approximately 100 more swimmers per set).

Swimmers will have the opportunity to learn and master stroke skills such as elementary backstroke, sidestroke, and butterfly.