Posted by: csdailyblog | September 28, 2010

Conserve School Students Scale New Heights

Caitlin seems to be enjoying the challenge.

Last week in Field Instruction, Conserve School students learned how to safely use our climbing wall. Field Instructor Trina Van Schyndel writes;

Jake smiles after completing his ascent.

This week was our climbing wall unit. On Monday and Tuesday [Field Instructors] Jess, Rachel, and Bennett helped students learn the basics of belaying and climbing, as well as taking care of gear and safety concerns. We’re proud to say all the students were able to belay and get at least two feet off of the ground, despite some fears of heights! Then on Thursday and Friday, [Field Instructors] Jess, Trina, Jeff, and Anita gave students the option to climb even more and practice their belaying skills, while [Field Instructor] Polina provided another option: volleyball. Almost 2/3 of the students chose to climb or belay again on Thursday and Friday, and we hope to provide more opportunities for them to climb throughout the semester.

In her blog, Conserve School student Kayla describes in gripping detail how she overcame her fear of heights last week and, finally, after several attempts, made it all the way to the top of the wall. Way to go, Kayla!

Here’s an excerpt:

So, if you don’t already know this, I’m pretty scared of heights. Last weekend, Alex, Josh, and Tanna tried to coach me up the climbing tree, but I only made it about 15 feet before freezing, and I actually cried a bit. It was beautiful, and I wish I could go higher.

This week, we’ve been climbing in field instruction. When I heard this, I was at once terrified and excited. Maybe I could use this opportunity to beat my fear. I love birds and flight, but can’t handle high buildings, trees, or edges of any sort.  After learning how to belay, I felt a lot better about the whole thing, and I really loved that moment when my climber slipped – but I caught them. They were safe, and it was because of me. It’s powerful. Today, I decided that I would make it to the top. All day, I was out of sorts – mostly due to staying up late and stressing over math, but part of it was anxiety. The first 2 times I ascended the dreaded face, I was forced to turn back. Both times, I later watched another climber shimmy up, as easily as a squirrel up a tree. Part of it is my hesitancy; I don’t trust my belayer enough, or myself enough. Another part that I can’t control is my reach, although if I were stronger and more confident, that would be no excuse. The most frustrating was the second climb, where I was stuck with the caribeener, the silvery trophy at the top, no more than two feet from my fingertips. I simply could not reach it, and by clinging to the wall for what felt like hours in stubborn determination, I wore out my forearms, fingers, and toes.

Kayla concentrates as she hangs on.

Read the happy ending to Kayla’s epic struggle with the climbing wall on her blog post entitled “I’ve never made it to the top of anything before …” 

Thank you, Kayla, for sharing your story with us, and congratulations! Persistence is everything.

Teaching students how to climb the wall not only increases their confidence and their physical skills, it also gives them a wonderful opportunity to practice teamwork and to support one another — by belaying,  by offering encouragement, and by demonstrating acceptance of different levels of ability, interest, and confidence. In this activity, students focus not only on their own success and well-being but also on the success and well-being of their classmates.  Take a look at the photos below, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Mary Anna

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