In our first article on dive programs for children, we covered PADI’s Bubblemaker program. In this, the second in our series, we’ll cover the PADI Seal Team program. Which program is right for your child? Read on to find out.
PADI offers several certification levels for children. The agency has designed Bubblemaker and Seal Team programs for the youngest students, starting at 8 years old. Here we’ll focus on Seal Team and why you might choose it over Bubblemaker. We chose Seal Team instead of Bubblemaker for our daughter, as she had been swimming since she was very small, was quite comfortable in the water, and had snorkeling experience already. Her dad and I are divers and she was curious about diving, so Seal Team was the best choice.
PADI Seal Team
Seal Team offers kids a chance to try on scuba gear in a confined-water environment, just like Bubblemaker. However, Seal Team offers a bit more action and excitement over a longer time. With Seal Team, students learn by completing “missions.” These include skills such as using a flashlight, taking pictures, and floating mid-water. The program offers continuing education through “specialty missions” as well. These include creature ID, night diving, search and recovery, wreck diving, navigation, buoyancy, and environmental awareness.
During classroom instruction, children learn about the mission and then complete a written challenge either before or after the pool dive. The missions are designed to keep kids’ interest, with cartoons, games, mazes and more. Unlike Bubblemaker, however, this program does require classroom instruction as well as pool work. Because of the complexity of some of the missions and skills demonstrations, instructors conduct Seal Team missions exclusively in a pool.
Seal Team missions
The first five of the hour-long missions focuses on responsibility and respect in the water, and results in recognition as a PADI Seal Team Member. The next 10 missions result in a Master Seal Team Member designation, with opportunities to learn about creature identification, search and recovery, and skin diving, to name a few. The participant will receive a new decal for their logbook after each completed mission.
The learning environment
The confined-water environment for Seal Team is deeper than for Bubblemaker, with a maximum depth of 12 feet (4 m). Your child must already be comfortable in the water to participate in Seal Team. As with Bubblemaker, the ratio of instructor to student is 6 to 1 or 4 to 1 with an Assistant Instructor. If the mission is deeper than six feet (2 m), the ratio drops to 2 to 1. So, although Seal Team seems geared for the slightly more advanced and mature child, the environment is still very controlled.
Learning to use gear
In Seal Team, the child learns to use the same gear as in the open-water certification course — mask, fins, snorkel, tank, BCD with low-pressure inflator, regulator, alternate-air source, and submersible pressure gauge. They’ll also use exposure protection and weights as appropriate. Kids will also need a torch for the AquaMission Night Dive. Just as with Bubblemaker, many dive shops will use junior-sized BCDs, smaller mouthpieces, and sometimes, smaller tanks. While it’s not a PADI requirement to use smaller gear, it certainly makes it easier for a child to try scuba if the dive shop offers that option. Children in Seal Team courses learn basic scuba-diving skills, such as breathing underwater, clearing a mask, and recovering a regulator, as well how to use hand signals to communicate with the instructor.
Counting Seal Team toward open water
Some dive shops will count Seal Team completion toward the child’s open-water course, once they are old enough. But if an 8-year-old child participates in Seal Team, there will be a two-year gap before the open-water course. As a mom, I don’t recommend applying your child’s Seal Team experience to his open-water course if there will be a long gap. If your child is already 10 years old and is taking Seal Team coursework, it makes more sense to count the program as part of open-water instruction. Parents should discuss both options in detail with the dive instructor.
Although 8-year-olds can sign up for Seal Team, just like Bubblemaker, the class is far more involved. Your child should have the maturity and interest to stick with the course over several weeks to complete up to 15 missions and to log dives appropriately. Seal Team is a lot of fun and can help your child become comfortable with scuba. If either of you have reservations, however, it’s probably best to start with Bubblemaker. If your child comes out of the water excited and wanting more, Seal Team is a perfect second step.