Did you know that a school’s traverse climbing wall can be used beyond physical education class? It is a great way to add more physical activity into the school day! Many schools are including climbing in their Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). Since physical education is the foundation of a CSAP, it is a school’s physical educator who leads the charge. Here’s a rundown of how to add climbing beyond physical education class:
Before and After School
One way to get students climbing during the time before and after school is to coordinate with your school’s childcare program. The main consideration here is safety. You need to be sure that anyone using the climbing wall has been properly trained in its operation, safety rules and supervision. Aside from understanding the operation and safety of the wall, have childcare staff participate in some fun climbing activities so they get a feel for what can be done on the wall. This will give them ideas for activities they could have students do.
Another great option to bring physical activity to before or after school is with a Climbing Club. Typically they meet once a week for four to six weeks and last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Organizing clubs by similar grade levels is recommended; for example, offer a 2nd and 3rd grade club and a separate 4th and 5th grade club.
During the School Day
Traverse Walls take up a small amount of space in the gym and can be made available to classroom teachers on days when it is not going to be used as part of physical education classes. A classroom teacher can have his or her class on the wall and the physical educator can conduct activities in another area of the gym or outside.
Logistically, it makes sense for the physical educator to create a schedule for when the climbing wall is available and communicate this to staff. Some schools block off a window of time and schedule teachers back to back. This allows them to keep the climbing mats down for a long period of time and not have to open and close the climbing wall, as putting up and taking down mats is a consideration that does take 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the wall.
Prior to their bringing in students, teachers need to be trained on the proper use and safety rules of the climbing wall since they will be supervising the climbing.
One way that classroom teachers can use the wall with their class is to take a physical activity break or a Brain Energizer. Taking a break from classroom learning to climb is fun and gets children re-engaged in classroom work. This does require the classroom teacher to walk the class to the gym, but a brief time on the climbing wall is a lot of fun and good exercise. The climbing wall is so popular with students that some teachers use it as a reward.
Integrating climbing with learning is another way to bring physical activity into the school day. And making some ideas readily available to teachers will help them see how they can easily integrate climbing with learning.
For math and literacy activities, advance preparation involves putting numbers, letters or words on the climbing wall next to hand holds. These can be written on Post-it notes or notecards and tucked behind hand holds. Some climbing walls allow you to write on them or place magnets. Whatever you have, put a variety of numbers/letters/words on the climbing wall, high and low. Be sure there are repeats since the idea is to maximize the number of children on the wall at one time. This is best done by having a continuous stream of climbers moving in the same direction with about an arm’s length of spacing between them. If there are multiple copies of numbers/letters/words, and one is missed, there will be another chance to find it farther down the wall.
Math & Climbing:
- Before they climb, have students pull a card with a math problem on it. For example, 5 x 2. The student must climb to find the number 10 and touch it.
- A great mental math activity is to have students stop at intervals along the way and add the numbers next to the holds that they are holding and/or standing on.
Literacy & Climbing:
- An activity for young students is to climb to the letters in their name. It could be first name, first and middle names or full name.
- Have students roll a die before they climb, and whatever number they get, they read that many sight words as they climb.
Training the staff at your school about the climbing wall is an important part to making them comfortable and eager to use it. Not everyone has climbed before. And if you have a horizontal climbing wall, they may not even understand that the goal is to make your way across it instead of just up. Once they understand how to use the wall, they are more likely to bring their classes in and to join any activity you plan.
Once everyone is familiar, and trained, you can invite staff to climb. If your school has a Wellness Committee, it could be one of their initiatives to have a Staff Open Climb; for example, after school every Thursday for 20 minutes. You could even add a staff challenge, like to climb across the entire length of the wall without stepping down to rest. The climbing wall is also perfect for Team Building and could be a part of staff meetings. Getting your staff climbing will not only help add some physical activity to their day, but will also be showing students that physical activity, including climbing, is for all ages.
Family and Community Engagement
Host a Family Open Climb one evening in the fall. This enables families to come learn about the climbing wall and participate in some fun climbing activities. You can also have the climbing wall available for school family events or the PTO/PTA sponsored events. Just be sure someone is available to supervise.
There are so many ways to get the school community climbing, and when the climbing wall is used more frequently, and by more people, the return on the investment increases too!