Climbing the walls at VIS

Published 1:55 pm Friday, September 3, 2010

Anna Grace Hall and Kaylyn Tomlinson scale a climbing wall recently installed in the Valley Intermediate School gym.

“Coming up with creative ways to maximize space is challenging,” Valley Intermediate School Physical Education Instructor Casey Smith said. “We’re limited in our space for indoor activity.”

Venturing into cyberspace led Smith to new activity space for his students. Yes, the VIS gym has undergone vertical expansion. Thanks to the school’s involvement with Fuel Up to Play 60, a website designed to promote healthy eating and at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, Smith discovered and applied for a grant that enabled VIS to install a climbing wall for the new school year.

“A climbing wall attached to one of our existing walls offers us an entirely new activity area, and we still have our gym floor to use for other activities,” Smith said.

The school’s new Everlast Traverse Climbing Wall has students climbing laterally so they are never more than a few feet off of the ground. The challenging footholds and grasps make staying on the wall a strenuous and fun workout.

Smith and his fellow physical education teacher, Jacob Taylor, constantly seek new ways to engage VIS students. So how do physical education coaches connect with a generation inclined to sit in front of a screen?

Smith and Taylor have taken their program online. Encouraging students to log on to Fuel Up to Play 60 made the school eligible for partial funding for the climbing wall. The fact that the kids really bought into the program and began to think about food choices and daily activity as part of a healthy lifestyle led to a shift in attitude for VIS students. Suddenly, sitting in front of a screen all day left one of their computer games unfinished.

Creating a PE Blog has further expanded the parameters of the VIS physical education program. Trivia questions answered correctly put kids in the running for cool gifts, and the blog connects the kids to their physical education teacher, and reminds them to be physically active, even when they are online.

Using blogs, websites and activity, physical education teachers Smith and Taylor have become much more than the schoolyard coaches of the past. They’ve become life coaches for a new generation of kids seeking balance in a high-tech world.

“Our role is to leave a footprint of how to live well, make healthy choices and have fun,” Smith said.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at