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Climbing Activities Make a Game of Teaching!
Climbing at my school: 10 questions and answers for physical education teachers.
The purchase of an artificial climbing wall is a major step in a schools evolution and the consequences of such a decision are numerous. Before buying, you have to make sure that you will be able to teach climbing, whether the budget at your disposal will allow you to make the purchase, whether you have the necessary space available and whether this is an activity that will coincide with your own preoccupations as a teacher or administrator. After that, you will need to choose a competent supplier with whom you can plan all phases of your climbing wall installation. Lastly, you will need to develop your own personalized approach so that the climbing wall becomes a pedagogical tool that will live up to your expectations. By then you will have joined the ranks of those who have made climbing activities a central part of their physical education classes.
Climbing at my school: 10 questions and answers for physical education teachers will guide you as you make your choices and allow you to go at your own pace, while providing you with the essential tools you need.
1. Where did the idea of teaching climbing in schools come from?
The idea of teaching climbing on interior walls came from the British, who were the precursors in a number of related fields. If they were not actually the first ones to venture into mountainous areas, it was nonetheless the British who made the sport of mountaineering popular in the 19th century. This very popular activity subsequently gave rise to the art of rock-climbing. This developed into a sport that was so popular, its adepts were wont to practice it just about anywhere: on buildings, up church steeples and eventually, inside gymnasiums. A number of rather astute climbers even went to the extent of replacing bricks in a wall they wanted to climb, with rocks on which they could get a better foothold.
These walls then had the advantage that one could climb them, yet they were fixed in the sense that the routes along the walls surface could not be altered, except by the enormous effort of removing more bricks and replacing them with other rocks. It was the French who thought up the concept of modular walls, with holds manufactured in a workshop that could be fixed into anchors in the wall. It was thereafter possible to modify the routes almost at will, altering the level of difficulty at the same time, simply by moving the holds (and varying the type and size of the hold) from one place to another. This idea proved profitable in more ways than one: not only was the arrangement of holds highly variable but it became possible to install them on all sorts of walls with a minimum of effort.
By 1988, Passe Montagne had been interested in manufacturing and assembling climbing walls for some time and that year, the company received its first commission from the University of Montréal. This construction proved to be innovative from every point of view: the structure was complex and had a number of slants and overhangs. Passe Montagne had succeeded in creating an artificial climbing structure that would become a model for the future, and the one in the University of Montréal remains the oldest of its kind in Québec. Thanks to the interior climbing wall, the sport has gained in popularity and the demand for new installations continues to be strong.
Since those early days, Passe Montagne has built upwards of a hundred climbing walls and the company recently passed the mark of 100,000 manufactured holds. Passe Montagnes products can be found in schools, universities and a number of other institutions across North America and around the world. Passe Montagnes multi-disciplinary team is today made up of about fifteen members: they include physical education teachers, climbers and all of sorts creative people, and since its foundation, the company has greatly widened its field of expertise and multiplied the range of services it offers to clients.
Today, Passe Montagne is recognized as a leader in its field and its expertise and skilful approach to the business are known around the world. Not only is Passe Montagne the No. 1 climbing hold manufacturer in Canada, it remains one of the few manufacturers of modular polymer climbing walls in the world. The company exports both its products and its know-how to many parts of the globe.
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2. What does climbing do for those who practice the activity?
Lionel Terray was very accurate when he said that it is the mountaineer who best understands the value of life. This quotation from one of the centurys most renowned mountaineers could very well have been applied to rock-climbing, an activity that constitutes a remarkable schooling for life. No other activity that we know of calls upon the skills of the individual to such an extent. It is not just a question of developing
Climbing activities also lead to a perception of the individual as a whole, as he or she learns to take charge of their whole being, from their emotional reactions right through to the most skilful motor movements. There is a side to climbing where individuals come face to face with their own apparent limitations, but are encouraged to surpass them each time they mount on the wall. This confrontation, if you like, taking place in a context where climbing is presented as a game, always brings out the most surprising, even astonishing responses. And when one is able to transfer this learning into everyday life, climbing really does become a magnificent schooling for life.
If rock-climbing occupies its own special place among the numerous other outdoor activities, it wasnt so long ago that it was reserved for an elite group. The creation of artificial climbing walls has opened up a world of possibilities to a new generation that would not otherwise have had access to this sport.
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3. What are the benefits of a climbing wall for my students?
From a very young age, children climb on chairs, up trees, up staircases, up and down hills, on tables etc. In short, anything may provide a pretext for climbing because it is an activity that stimulates childrens creativity. It also contributes to their development in terms of understanding about their bodies and it is always of interest to them because of its infinite variety and the possibilities it offers to their imagination.
In addition, climbing is something now widely practiced in our society. With the advent of the climbing wall, it is tempting for physical education teachers to offer their students the chance of doing an activity that they may not be able to do anywhere else. Indeed, when one realizes the extraordinary potential for learning experiences, especially with respect to taking responsibility for oneself and accepting personal challenges, it is easy to see that the climbing wall has a proper place within the field of education.
Here is a summary of individual skills, team skills and collective skills inherent to climbing:
Individual skills: visual acuity, lateral movement, spatial perception, coordination, muscular strength, emotional control (fear), commitment (calculated risks), taking responsibility for safety, problem solving, observation, analysis and method, self-confidence, concentration and creativity;
Team skills: keeping an eye on ones teammate, acting as advisor, providing motivation, offering encouragement and having confidence in the other person;
Collective skills: Cooperating with another person and ensuring their safety.
Whats more, Jacqueline Veilleux, a physical education teacher who specializes in teaching climbing in schools, has pointed out that climbing activities answer a need for adventure, challenge and discovery that is very natural in children at the elementary school level. It is an activity which captures their interest at once and brings them face to face with situations that are motivating but which demand some kind of effort. Climbing provides the opportunity for authentic motor development in a play context, a chance to learn how to surpass oneself and achieve self-control, and to develop the values of courage, solidarity and respect.
In short, climbing is a total training experience which benefits teachers just as much their students.
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