Written by DR. CARRIE ROWE, Superintendent

A wise historian once said, “the supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play,” and that is exactly what we have done for students at Dutch Ridge Elementary (DRE) this year. After months spent alternating between hybrid, virtual, and in-person instruction during the first year of the COVID pandemic, students at DRE returned in September 2021 to find a new cargo climbing net installed in the gymnasium. The cargo climbing net is just one element in a series of team-building activities that all 600 students at the school will experience this year.

Physical Education teacher Ashley Denhup has had extensive experience facilitating team building activities and shared that even before students climb on the cargo net, “they will be going through a progression of the Team Building Curriculum that will work on many social and emotional skills, as well as promote growth in individuals and among students as a whole team.” When students use the cargo climbing net, they will be faced with real-time problems that will require team collaboration, communication, and whole-body activity to solve. These skills, along with leadership, conflict management, and the impact of diversity on teams, are some of the core aptitudes the Beaver Area School District is trying to strengthen in order to prepare our students to become the future-ready leaders of tomorrow.

Denhup and her colleagues, who trained on the equipment this summer with expert facilitators from the Adventure Network, plan first to introduce students to the climbing equipment, like harnesses, climbing ropes, and helmets. Then students will be taught about climbing safety, including climbing commands and students’ unique on-the-ground support roles for those students who are climbing. Like all new experiences, it is expected that students exposed to this experiential education opportunity will have varying degrees of initial comfort, coordination, physical strength, and emotional vocabulary for the challenges they will face. For this, Denhup promised that “as the students progress, there will be additional advanced climbs and challenges at each of the student’s individual level.”

In addition to enjoying on-the-ground and on-the-cargo climbing, net team building, and communication-building activities this year during physical education class, DRE Principal, Justin Noel, and Assistant Principal, Tonya O’Brien, see additional opportunities for climbing clubs, supervised indoor recess, and student choice initiatives. “We find that students are more willing to tackle complex tasks with challenging obstacles if the content interests them,” Noel shared, “and this is just one more chance for students to explore a novel opportunity before they determine where they want to specialize.” Highlighting process over product, O’Brien emphasized that “while making it to the top is a good goal, as in life, all the growth occurs while you’re climbing.”

Learn more about the cargo climbing net, student choice activities, and other initiatives at the Beaver Area School District on our website or by following us on Twitter @BeaverAreaSD.

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