Dynamic Traverse Climbing with Accessories by Matt Barrows

For the month of February, we are featuring past guest blog posts. We are fortunate to have partnered with exceptional educators and therapists who have generously shared their climbing wall experiences as guest bloggers. We are eager to share them again with you. Here's a great one from 2021.

Dynamic Traverse Climbing with Accessories by Matt Barrows

The versatility that comes with the Everlast Climbing Traverse Walls® is a PE teacher’s dream.  When you first view the wall, you might think of it as just a tool to have students climb across. Students are very quick to master climbing and are always looking for that next challenge. I’ve created several games/activities that involve different aspects of climbing to keep their interest at the peak. Your wall can always change too!  From simply changing around all of the holds, to many different accessories!

We love to use our Traverse Wall® during our movement concepts units in PE.  The wall provides so many different body movements such as levels, flexibility, shapes, pathways, balance, weight transfers, and so much more. The Versa® Challenge Course from Everlast Climbing will help enhance all of those movements.

Students climbing on a Traverse Wall through Versa Challenge Course accessory

Using the Versa Challenge Course, I challenged my climbers to use different pathways and levels to make it through the course. They needed to think of which path to take across the wall that was best for them. Depending on the hula hoop placements and rotations, they also had to process if they should go over, under, or through the hula hoops. The thought process going through their brain was electric! Their brains are hard at work as they are trying to find that next hold to grab or step on, and now we’ve added a new element into the mix!  Combining the use of exercise and mental problem solving does the body good!

Students like to feel proud of their accomplishments. I use a chart and challenge for several of our climbing challenges. This is as simple as creating a challenge and using a large piece of butcher paper that students can sign their name on after completing the challenge. When you take something that is a bit more challenging for the students such as the Versa Challenge Course, you want to make sure that you’re motivating students to keep going when things get hard.  They want their name up on that chart, so they continue to push themselves after failure. We instill a growth mindset with students by doing so. Learn from mistakes and figure out what can be done the next time around to help you succeed.

I love climbing, because it is very inclusive to all students. It is great at developing full body strength, where a lot of other activities isolate certain muscles. Depending on strength, and body type, upper body exercises such as pull ups, push-ups, or other body weight exercise can be very difficult for students. Traverse climbing allows more muscles throughout the body to be used which also provides a higher success rate for all students.

Students climbing on a Traverse Wall using ring holds

I have added Loop Holds to my climbing wall which would be similar to gymnastics rings. These rings have been great for climbers that are not as confident because it gives them an item to grip onto and support themselves easier. I also love using these rings with my adapted PE students for the same reason. Most climbing holds are static, but these rings provide some movement which can also work different muscle groups for every climber. 

I challenge you to be dynamic with the way you use your traverse climbing wall with your students. There are so many different ways that your wall can be utilized to maximize student growth physically and mentally. Climbing is a great way to increase skills that we don’t think of as much, such as determination, focus, problem solving, self-awareness, overcoming challenge, and confidence.  Kids absorb so many things from their environment, and climbing can provide them with so many life skills for their future!

Matt Barrows, physical educator, who uses a climbing wall with students

About the Author

Matt Barrows has been teaching Physical Education and Health for 10 years now. He currently teaches at Ravenwood Elementary in Kansas City, MO. Matt has created a before school running club for his students to instill fitness, leadership, and communication skills for students. He has brought programs into his school to promote lifetime activities and skill. BikeWalkKC has partnered with his schools to teach students bicycle safety and help build up new riders. Hy-vee has also partnered with Ravenwood Elementary to develop an active lifestyle with fitness and healthy eating through their KidsFit program.

Matt was awarded the MOSHAPE Kansas City Region PE Teacher of the Year in 2020. In 2015, Matt was recognized by the North Kansas City School District and selected to the Teaching Honor Cadre. This honor is awarded to individuals that go above and beyond to ensure NKC Schools are a great place for students, teachers, staff, and community. Matt has also received a grant from the Heartland Foundation for Project Fit America to create new ways to develop fitness while having fun but also building on teamwork, communication, and cooperation skills. Matt recently became one of the Elementary PE instructional leaders for his district, helped develop a new PE/Health curriculum, leads professional growth courses, and advocates for a healthy lifestyle for all. He went to Northwest Missouri State University for both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in K-12 PE and Education Leadership. Matt wants to create an enjoyable active lifestyle for all students.

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