Have you ever climbed a mountain? What was it like climbing back down? Was it scary coming down from the mountain?
One of our semester 1 reading stories was Cliff Hanger by Jean Craighead George. It is an up-close, nail bitingly dramatic look at the sport of rock climbing where a young climber’s dog becomes stranded on a mountain ledge as a thunderstorm approaches. The young boy has to use all his skill and courage as a climber to rescue his best friend.
With a story like Cliff Hanger it may be difficult for some students to understand what it might be like to rock climb, in addition, there are technical terms and equipment used in rock climbing that the students will be unfamiliar with.
So, we decided to give the students a taste of rock climbing without going anywhere near a mountain!
Here at Wagor Bilingual Academy we have two artificial climbing walls built up against the face of the school buildings looking onto Spanish Square. One climbing wall is about ten feet high and the other is about thirty feet high. We decided for first time climbers it would be best to use the ten foot wall.
We arranged a rock climbing class during one of 3F’s PE periods. The class started with warm up exercises which are very important when doing an activity such as rock climbing. Then, the Chinese PE teacher explained the safety rules and the do’s and don’ts of using the climbing wall and the equipment.
After that, I talked through the climbing equipment and some of the technical terms which are used in the story so that the students could more easily relate what we were doing at the climbing wall to the Cliff Hanger story.
The students were then allowed to “free climb” (climb without equipment) the wall two at a time. In the Cliff Hanger story, the main character has to climb the last ten feet of the mountain down to the ground without being tied to a safety rope. He had to free climb! The students were able to imagine what it would be like to climb the mountain, just like Axel did when saving his dog.
The students all loved the rock climbing experience and, who knows, maybe it has inspired some of them to try it for real one day.