Aug. 24, 2014

Blog re: Traverse Climbing Walls - Ian Craigon BPE, BEd, MEd.

Blog #1:

 What are your thoughts on climbing walls for school gymnasiums?

 Here are some of mine, just to get some dialogue going with physical educators and school administrators.  I do hope you join in on this if you have an opinion on the topic or have been considering the acquisition of such a facility for your school.

 I recently retired from public education following 41 years as a classroom and physical education specialist teacher, a District level PHE Consultant, a national Director of Quality Daily Physical Education with CAHPERD (now PHE Canada), and a school VP and principal.  I have worked in schools in two provinces and have travelled extensively throughout Canada meeting with teachers and school officials.

Based on this extensive experience and the points I will mention below, I have come to believe that climbing walls, particularly traverse walls (i.e. focus is on horizontal travel rather than climbing for height), should become as common in K-8 school gyms as basketball hoops! 

I believe that the Southampton Climbing Frames (and similar facilities) that have been a popular major feature in most elementary school gyms in Canada for over 40 years are wearing out and becoming hard or impossible to get parts for.  I believe they are also becoming a liability school district officers, principals and teachers no longer are willing to endure.  Those structures may not be able to be well maintained.   Many teachers are concerned about their personal lack of knowledge and ability in their use and the resultant fear of student injury.  Principals share those concerns and see the units folded up in the gym with very infrequent use.

I see traverse climbing walls as the ideal alternative to / replacement for these gym climbing frames!

Kids love to climb!!  Opportunities for climbing in many of today’s children’s environments are scarce.  Outdoor (and indoor!) rock climbing is a lifetime healthy pursuit growing in popularity with adolescents and adults.   Young children need easy access to climbing facilities to help them develop basic climbing skills to raise their awareness of the recreational opportunities of climbing in their world today.

Benefits of climbing on these walls include: 


  • Muscular strength
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Coordination and balance


  • Cooperation
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Leadership


  • Self esteem
  • Perseverance
  • Courage
  • Positive risk-taking


  • Problem solving
  • Focus and concentration
  • Math and reading skills

Traverse climbing walls require no safety equipment other than mats to pad the floor at the foot of the wall (and to pad the wall when the mats are raised and attached to close off climbing).  Climbers are never more that 3 to 4 feet above the floor mats.  Teachers require very little professional development to feel confident in leading safe and appropriate lessons.  These walls lend themselves to a wide array of activities and games that promote and enhance cross-curricular learning in addition to the obvious physical development.

So, what do you think?? 

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