Rock walls provide new venues for physical fitnesss
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The kids love it. It’s not just great for the upper body strength, but we do some challenges, where they have to figure out how to go down the wall and move over obstacles that we’ve created for them. They’ve had to work together and work as partners to try to get across the wall, too. It’s unlimited on what we can do.” – Michelle Moore, Physical Education Teacher at the Grayling Elementary School
Scott Baker opted to step out of the gym and back into the classroom at the Grayling Elementary School, but not before leading the entire student body in solidifying a rock solid foundation to provide physical fitness for the youth.
Baker served as the physical education teacher at the Grayling Elementary School for nine years.
Due to wear and tear on his body and the desire to hone in on his background in math and science, he took a position teaching fifth grade for the current school year.
“I thoroughly enjoy being in the classroom,” he said.
Over an eight-year period, Baker led the students in the Hoops for Heart campaign, as the students played basketball in support of the American Heart Association. The students successfully raised over $75,000 to promote heart health over the years.
Last year, Baker switched the fundraising focus to raise money for the Grayling Elementary School to benefit current and future students.
A series of fundraisers were held to raise money for indoor rock climbing walls, which were placed in the gymnasium in conjunction with school renovations that took place last summer. The gym also received a new floor and permanent basketball hoops with glass backboards.
The theme for the fundraising campaign was “Grayling Elementary Rocks.” A physical fitness night, where $5 donations were accepted for participation at the school, included a karate instructor, a Zumba class, a Spiderman bounce house, and sports trivia. The students also held “pay to break school rules” days, including hat day, stuffed animal day, inside out clothes day, bring your own drink and snack day, and gum day or crazy hair day.
“They dyed their hair and did all kinds of crazy things,” said Baker, adding that students paid $5 to take part in the entire week or $1 per day.
The double elimination basketball tournament was still held between the classes at the school, and the students were encouraged to solicit donations from their family, relatives, friends, and neighbors.
Overall, the students raised $18,000 to go toward the rock walls. Baker made a presentation to the Graying Youth Booster Club regarding the project, and received a $2,000 grant to help with funding.
The four eight-foot-tall and 80 feet long rock walls cost $28,500. The Crawford AuSable School District (CASD) covered the remaining cost for the rock walls.
The walls came from the Everlast Climbing, based in Minneapolis, and include a mural of a space scene, the ocean, and two different mountain scenes.
Baker said that educators sought the rock walls for students who don’t excel in regular stick and ball sports and team sports.
“The rock wall is an individual type deal, where they can build up stamina, confidence in themselves, perseverance, finishing what they start,” he said.
Supplementing traditional exercises and physical fitness with time on the rock walls is also part of the National Standards for Physical Education.
“That was our primary premise, for all students to enjoy it and to be physically active even if you weren’t the sporty type,” Baker said.
Michelle Moore, the new physical education teacher at the Grayling Elementary School, said the students are ecstatic when the mats used to cover the rock walls are taken down for their use. The mats serve as a safe landing for students when they are not in place to cover the wall for student safety and to protect the integrity of the art murals.
“The kids love it. It’s not just great for the upper body strength, but we do some challenges, where they have to figure out how to go down the wall and move over obstacles that we’ve created for them,” Moore said. “They’ve had to work together and work as partners to try to get across the wall, too. It’s unlimited on what we can do.”
Moore said the rock walls also promote team building among the classmates as they encourage their fellow students to climb higher on the walls and to go faster across the walls.
“Some students, who have a little more trouble, the classmates have been great as far as encouraging them to keep going and to try their hardest,” Moore said. “It’s good for life skills in a lot of ways.”
The rock walls replaced a smaller model that was only one foot off the ground, four feet tall and 15 feet long.
Cadence Rasmussen, age 9, a fourth grader, said she enjoys the challenge the rock walls present for several students at the same time.
“I like how it has more room to climb and that more people can be on it,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said she also likes taking in the art, each time the mats are removed to look at the murals.
“You have to look at it a bunch and bunch of times,” she said. “Even if you do it more, you’ll always find something new.”
Cameron Baker, age 9, also a fourth grader, said he likes taking on the diverse challenges the rock wall offers.
“Some of the grips are really easy and some are difficult, and I like how you try new ones every time you get to go on the rock wall,” he said.
Grayling Elementary School Principal Gina Brunskill acknowledged Baker for his school leadership.
“He is an example of the incredible passion and dedication that CASD team members exhibit for the students they serve,” Brunskill said.