03/21/04 — Rock climbing wall

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Rock climbing wall

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 21, 2004 2:03 AM

Students at Rosewood Elementary School are climbing the walls, but not because spring has arrived.

A 42-foot-long rock climbing wall has been added to the school's physical education program. It is about 10 feet high and students climb across, not up.

It is physical education teacher Michelle Kornegay's first year at the school. She said she has been interested in offering rock climbing ever since she saw it at a workshop she attended six years ago. She said the school's PTA agreed that it could make a good program and helped raise the $2,600 to bring it to the gymnasium.

Hand-holds on the wall can be moved around to increase the level of difficulty, she said. There are also a number of safety rules that students have to learn before they begin.

"You're not supposed to go above the blue line," said fifth-grader Lacy Barnett.

Her classmates also chimed in.

"You have to wear shoes, not flip-flops," Nathan Kornegay said, "and you have to climb down sideways, not straight down."

"The hardest part is to climb from side to side," Ayah Zeidan said. "You have a make sure there's a space between people."

Lamesha Bradley said that students had to bring in a permission slip before they could climb the wall. Then it's just a matter of being careful and holding on.

Ms. Kornegay said the exercise requires thinking to plan where to go next.

"When I first got on, it looked hard," Ayah said. "But then as you keep moving on, it gets harder because the rocks get smaller as you go."

Ms. Kornegay said there are many benefits to offering rock climbing to children.

"There's a lot of research now on brain development," she said. "Some children have a lot of trouble reading and writing. There are different movements that are natural to do on the wall, that help with left- and right-brain integration."

She said girls tend to lose upper-body strength at the onset of puberty, and rock climbing helps with that.

The wall has become popular at the school, she said. "The kids love it. They ask us every day if they can climb."

She said it is being used by all ages, from pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade classes. Between 12 and 14 can be on it at one time, with the typical rotation time being every 10 minutes.

Staff members are also using it, she said.

"They have all done it," she said. "They're like a bunch of kids.

"Everybody's been on it and tried it."

She said the maintenance department at the school applied the plywood base to the wall and painted it. Except for occasional touch-ups, she said, the wall is sturdy and will benefit the physical education program for many years.

"It should last until these children's grandchildren are here," she said.