So I took 15 kids aged 11 - 14 for their first climbing session. It was meant to be archery but had to be changed at very short notice when the archery people pulled out. Lots of last minute phone calls, emails, risk assessments and begging for funding and RESULT! ... we are climbing at Awesome Walls in Stockport every Friday afternoon until Christmas.
This is part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the students taking part are all new it and so just starting out on their bronze award. As you have to be fourteen (or close to it) to take part in D of E the younger kids are working towards a special school award instead. We're hoping they'll still get lots out of it and it will whet their appetites for the real deal when they are old enough.
We were pretty disorganised yesterday as everything was so last minute - we weren't sure what to wear or where to get changed, whether or not there would be time to eat lunch, if we'd worked the timings out ok, and what exactly we were going to do once there. Luckily it all went well and like clockwork. We got there on time, were able to get changed and have a quick bite of our sandwiches before we started. Then there was time to finish lunch before going to get the bus back to school.
We had a short introductory talk and then a go at bouldering to warm up. Then it was on with harnesses and the first climb on a not very high wall. They all did well and so were able to spend the rest of the session tackling much higher walls. The students were divided into three groups of five, each with its own instructor. The instructor was great, explaining things, making sure the students were safe and knew what they were doing, but still giving them freedom to push themselves.
We had a couple of students who were worried about heights but still wanted to give it a go. They did brilliantly and felt like they'd really achieved something when they got up near the top of the high walls. One girl was quite shaky and feeling a little traumatised when she came down (we'd told her she only had to do what she was comfortable with, but she got up so fast I don't think she realised how high she'd gone until it was time to get down!), but within minutes she was wanting to have another go.
On the bus on the way home they were all buzzing and saying how much they'd enjoyed it and how they think it's much better than the archery would have been (some were quite disappointed when I first told them we would be doing climbing instead of archery). I was buzzing because they were buzzing. The teaching assistant who'd come with me had enjoyed it as well.
I didn't think I'd be able to have a go myself as it's costing rather a lot and I thought I would be pushing it to ask school to pay for me as well. The students were all keen to see me have a go though and so the instructor said I can try it out next week. I must remember my PE kit. (The video 'daft teacher stuck up a wall' that I'm sure will soon be appearing on Youtube will be even worse if it's 'daft teacher in business dress stuck up a wall'!)
The students will be working towards their level 1 and 2 NICAS qualifications (National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme) and will have log books for this. I thought I'd just be watching and picking up tips so that at some point I can come back and do it for myself as it is on my list of things to do. But if I can have even a bit of a go each week I'll get a lot further than I thought I would at this time and may be ticking this challenge off in the near future.