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Students learn from climbing

I-S summer school offers challenge

By Holly Neumann

A climbing wall at the Iola-Scandinavia Community Fitness & Aquatic Center has been turned into a learning experience for students of all ages.

“The last two years, we had introduced the climbing wall in physical education classes at all levels of the school district,” center director Tim Welch said.

It only seemed natural to add it to the summer school curriculum and Welch said it has been a big hit.

“Climbing is called a Challenge by Choice activity,” he said. “This means students make their own choices how far and high to climb. This way, climbing becomes an individual fun activity not based on fear, but based on what they can do physically and what they feel comfortable doing.”

Students agreed.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Ahnna Check, 8. “I was a little scared at first, but I love it now.”

“It’s much harder than I thought, but I like the challenge,” third-grader Korz Loken said. “Everyone should give it a try. It’s something new and fun to do.”

“I finally made it to the top,” added Jayden Ridge, 7.

Climbers are given the option of using an auto or team belay system.

“The auto belay machine has a magnetic brake system that senses the weight of the student as they release from the wall,” Welch said. “It then lowers them to the ground at a safe speed. This allows students to climb with supervision, but literally alone.

“The traditional team belay we use gives students opportunities to work as a team and communication is the key with that,” he added. “Climbing in belay teams use vocal commands which are developed and used the entire time during climbing.”

Emmett Danielson makes his way up the climbing wall. Holly Neumann Photo

Students are having fun, but also learning the importance of team-building, trust, patience, communication skills and overcoming obstacles.

“One thing that all students take away from it is a huge sense of personal accomplishment,” Welch said. “It is overcoming a little bit of fear, climbing higher and pushing themselves further than they ever expected they could.”

Once people get comfortable with climbing, they will want to try new experiences, according to Welch.

“There are larger climbing walls found all over the state and at local universities,” he said. “It is definitely something that you can do for the rest of your life.”

Students that have climbed the wall have shown improvement.

“We see a growth in confidence and a willingness to try harder,” Welch said. “The ability to get higher and become stronger in the wrist and fingers develops quickly. We see students climbing higher as they develop coordination of climbing the wall.”

The wall has the support of Iola-Scandinavia School Board members and business manager Sarah Thiel, Welch said.

“They have embraced the use of the climbing wall,” he said. “If not for their willingness to allow the purchase of new harnesses, rope, helmets and the auto belay systems, the climbing wall would have continued to sit unused.

“They all had the foresight to listen and to trust that we would do what is best for the Iola-Scandinavia Community Fitness & Aquatic Center,” he said. “The climbing wall has become an asset for the community and a great tool for continued educational purposes.”

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