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Boat Smart from the Start: Always Wear Your Life Jacket! (FLWCRNC)

TopicLaboratory and Hands-on Activities - Physical Activity
Outdoor Skills - Outdoor Safety
Outdoor Skills - Boating
Participants will discuss the purpose and types of personal flotation devices (PFDs), what age groups must wear them, which one fits their needs and how to fasten them. They will also learn what a throwable device is, its function and how to wear it.
Grade LevelK - 8 (Program can be modified to suit the audience)
Recommended SettingIndoor or outdoor classroom
LocationForrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro
ContactEducation Program Coordinator, 870-933-6787
Duration20 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants25 - 120
Special Conditions
Must have a minimum of 25 students
  • Identify types of PFDs.
  • Discuss the proper fit of a PFD.
  • Discuss how a PFD works.
  • Discuss how to use a throwable device.


Key Terms*




Personal flotation device (PFD)

Throwable device


Assorted PFDs

Throwable device


Many people drown because they fall out of a boat and are not wearing a fitted personal flotation device. Some don’t believe they need one because they can swim. Others may wear one that has dry rot or is not the right size. The most important thing about riding in a boat is to wear a PFD. By law, anyone 12 or younger must wear a PFD while in a boat. Also, all vessels must have at least one approved PFD for every person on board. There must also be a throwable device on any vessel 16 feet or longer.

  1. Select several PFDs to show, at least one each of types I - V.
  2. Ask how many of the participants ride in a boat during the hunting or boating season. Then ask how many wear a life jacket. Talk about the law requirements for vessels in Arkansas and how it relates to them. Also, discuss what can happen if they fall out of a boat.
  3. Ask for volunteers to try on the PFDs. Study which PFDs fit them and what they are used for. Talk about the different styles and functions for each type, and show them where to find the information on the PFDs.
  4. Next, pull one person from the audience to demonstrate how to use a throwable device and its function. Ask them how it is and its purpose. Then act out a situation where someone has fallen out of a boat and cannot swim well. Toss them the throwable device and talk about how to wear it.
  5. Last, ask them to recite this, “Boat smart from the start. Always wear your life jacket.” Then ask what they are going to do next time they go boating.



Bring two clear containers, one filled with tap water and the other salt water. Show how objects in salt water are denser than in regular water. Thus, boaters need a larger PFD if on the ocean. (This program is suitable for all grade levels. Use age-appropriate vocabulary.)

  • What is a PFD?
  • What is a throwable device?
  • What are their purposes?
  • What can happen if you don’t wear your PFD?



The Handbook! Arkansas Boating Laws and Responsibilities (2007). Boat Ed.


Buoyancy – the power to float or rise in a fluid


Density – a measure of how much mass is contained in a given unit volume


Hypothermia – dangerously low body temperature resulting from exposure to cold air or water


Personal flotation device (PFD) – a life jacket or other device for keeping a person afloat in the water


Throwable device – a life preserver or other device that can be accurately thrown to keep a person afloat in the water