Kids are climbing their way to fitness

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Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Students in Kevin Cutler’s physical education class at Norwood Elementary School practice their climbing skills on a wall funded by a $20,000 grant. Pictured in front is 10-year-old Aleithia Wilson.

(Posted Sept. 28, 2017)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

A climbing wall dotted with colorful hand and foot grips, a yellow rubber chicken and a bright orange pig at the top provides a novel way of engaging students in physical education at Norwood Elementary in West Jefferson.

The school received a $20,000 grant earlier this year to build the wall after winning a contest sponsored by UnitedHealthcare of Ohio. Norwood was initially selected as a $1,000 weekly Playmakers winner, which supported a morning fitness club.

Weekly winners were then entered into a final drawing for the $20,000 grand prize.

A check was presented to the school on March 9.

The ceremony included former OSU football players Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel and Brutus Buckeye.

The wall was installed over the summer and is now in use by kindergartners through sixth-graders, including 10-year-olds Aleithia Wilson and Brodie Quinn.

“We’ve been climbing on it for six weeks,” said Quinn while taking a break during a Sept. 26 gym class. “It’s a lot of fun and it was also a little crazy having a climbing wall in my school.”

Wilson admits muscle groups used to climb the wall are different than ones used in a traditional gym class.

“It is fun, but it is also a tough workout,” said Wilson, who said the best part of the experience is being able to brag to her siblings she has a climbing wall in her school.

“It’s tough on legs and arms, if you are not used to it,” she continued. “You are using muscles you don’t use every day. We have gym once a week and we climb the wall during each class.”

Physical education teacher Kevin Cutler, whose brother is in a similar position at a school with a similar climbing feature and helped Cutler with lesson plans and observations, said students were excited when told about the climbing wall.

According to Cutler, for the first nine weeks, students are working on horizontal skills before moving up to higher levels.

“Some students don’t want to leave the first level because they’re afraid of heights,” said Cutler, “and I would never make them go higher than they’re comfortable. Using the wall works on kids’ minds and completion skills. It also lets me work on their learning pathways and processes, as well as athletics. I can change any rock pattern to change the challenge. It is amazing.”

Principal Sue Barte said members of her staff and specialists—including a social worker and county adaptive physical education instructor and physical therapist—were trained in August on the climbing wall’s use and safety protocol.

She said the wall is challenging students and hopes it helps them holistically.

UnitedHealthcare President and CEO Kurt Lewis said, “We are thrilled to see the students at Norwood Elementary are able to use their new climbing wall as part of the school’s fitness program. Working with our partners from Ohio State IMG Sports Marketing and 97.1 The Fan, Playmakers inspires all schools across the state to improve the health of young Buckeyes, be encouraging active play and physical activity.”

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