One of our semester 1 reading stories this year was Cliff Hanger by Jean Craighead George. In the story a young boy, called Axel, has to use all his skill and courage as a rock climber to rescue his dog who is stranded high on a ledge. To add to the drama of the story, there is a thunderstorm approaching.
Here at Wagor Bilingual Academy we have two artificial climbing walls built up against the face of the school buildings looking onto Spanish Square. We decided that this would be a great opportunity to introduce the students to the climbing walls and to give them a taste of mountain climbing without having to leave the campus. In addition, the students would learn about some of the equipment used in rock climbing.
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.
The rock climbing class was carried out during one of the PE periods. Each Reading Class Teacher attended the class to offer support and encouragement to their students. 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, the Reading Teacher 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 they 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.
With a story like Cliff Hanger it may be difficult for some students to understand what it might be like to rock climb, but after their experience on the climbing wall, they definitely had a better appreciation of this very exciting sport!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.