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MailTribune.com
  • Note: Wall not to scale

    Central Point adds rock-climbing wall at elementary, but students can only make lateral moves
  • Fourth-grader Ryan McCarty adjusted his grip on a yellow hold just above his head and reached for a red one with his free hand as he slowly traversed the face of Central Point Elementary's new climbing wall Thursday morning.
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  • Fourth-grader Ryan McCarty adjusted his grip on a yellow hold just above his head and reached for a red one with his free hand as he slowly traversed the face of Central Point Elementary's new climbing wall Thursday morning.
    Meanwhile, nearly 30 of his classmates waited patiently — and some impatiently — on the ground for their turn on the wall.
    McCarty said hockey used to be his favorite physical education activity, but now it's the rock wall.
    "It's harder to grip some of the small (holds), but it's easy for me because I have small hands," he boasted after scaling the wall for the second time Thursday.
    Fourth-grader Reece Tallman declared she "wasn't scared at all."
    "I think it makes my arms strong," she said.
    The structure, which measures 28 feet long and 8 feet high, was installed along the eastern wall of the school's gymnasium over spring break.
    In December, Jason Kuhlman, a fourth-grade teacher at CPE, pitched the idea of a rock wall to Principal Walt Davenport, who then suggested it at a PTO meeting.
    January Hargis, vice-president of the PTO, said the organization had been saving for more than three years for a new security camera system, estimated to cost about $8,000. However, the price came down, and the PTO was able to purchase the system for $2,000 and allocated the rest for the rock wall, which members unanimously approved.
    "It is something that all grade levels can use, and something that will liven up PE," Hargis said. "It'll also be great for rainy-day recesses."
    In the future, the school may expand the wall by adding more panels, Kuhlman said.
    "However, we don't want to go up with it, because we don't want to use ropes, carabineers or helmets," he added. "We don't want to make it a vertical wall, just a traverse wall."
    As it is, the wall has a few obstacles, such as noodle rings for the students to maneuver through and a protruding panel that requires a little more technical skill.
    During Thursday's PE session, Kuhlman coached the kids as they climbed.
    "Always keep three points on the wall," he reminded one student.
    The fourth-graders also were instructed to stay off the safety mats beneath the wall, to climb — not jump — off the wall and to keep their feet below the red line, which is about three feet off the ground.
    The first day with the rock wall, Kuhlman's students struggled to get a good grip, so he sent them out to the playground for a hanging challenge.
    "I made them each find a place to hang from, and I would time them ... and then have them run and find a new place to hang," he said.
    The next day, they complained of sore arms and shoulders, he added.
    Over the course of the week, Kuhlman saw his students become less timid and more sure of themselves as they climbed.
    Last week, he even auctioned off 15 extra minutes on the rock wall as part of his classroom economy project, in which kids earn fake money for doing homework and chores, and pay rent and taxes.
    Two students paid $120 for extra time on the wall, and one student, who stopped bidding at $40, regretted that he hadn't done his homework.
    "It's been the highlight of their week," Kuhlman said.
    Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.
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