From The Intelligencer - www.phillyblurbs.com - Nov. 3, 2008
Students soon will be climbing the walls
By THERESA HEGEL The Intelligencer
Some kids dress up as Spider-Man for Halloween.
But Pennridge middle-schoolers will soon have the chance to become Spidey. Or at least to climb across a wall like the Web-slinging superhero.
The school board approved a $13,500 contract with Massachusetts-based nonprofit Project Adventure for design, installation and training on 40-foot-long climbing walls at the district's three middle schools. The district will spend less than $10,000 to buy the needed materials.
The walls are short, with students' feet never more than 3 feet above the ground, but students can climb across their length, not just their height.
Climbing walls and other challenge-course activities reflects a shift in physical education philosophy, said Arlene Zielinski, assistant superintendent for programs. She added that the walls should go up in December or January.
When she was in school, “Phys-ed was seen as ground for training future athletes and if you weren't among them you just kind of had to go along anyway,” she said.
Though Pennridge still features team sports as part of its gym curriculum, now there is also an emphasis on wellness and fitness.
“This creates more of a balance,” Zielinski said.
The climbing walls, which can improve coordination, problem solving and teamwork in addition to building upper body strength, tend to be motivational for students who aren't necessarily top athletes, she said.
“When success is defined as personal, individual progress ... all children can do that,” she said.
Pennridge received a federal grant to install climbing walls at its elementary schools several years ago and has had great success integrating them into the physical education program, Zielinski said.
There has also been some interest in purchasing a taller climbing wall for the high school, but Zielinski said such walls pose some problems* because they require harnesses and other gear and fewer students can use them at one time.
Project Adventure, a 37-year-old international organization, provides schools and other agencies with the tools to implement various experiential programs, according to its Web site.
Theresa Hegel can be reached at 215-538-6381 or thegel@phillyBurbs.com.
*research shows that with properly trained staff, inspection and maintenance by a qualified vendor, climbing elements that utilize harnesses, helmets and appropriate safety equipment actually result in less injuries than low challenge course elements. (PA comment)