Kids, you’ve got to love them. In this case, we’re actually talking more about adults than children. I work as an Adapted P.E. Specialist with 18-22 year old special needs students in a “post-senior” program with the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Students at this phase of their educational school experience, are involved less in the academics, and more in the development of life skills, in hoping to best prepare them to meet the real world some day. My job as the APE Specialist is to expose students to various sports, recreation and leisure activities available in their community. My intention is to spark some interest with them to pursue these activities on their own, perhaps with their families, once they graduate, leaving less time for the computer/video games and a sedentary lifestyle.
For the past 4-5 years now, Planet Granite has opened their arms and their doors to us, allowing us the opportunity to bring in students during the quieter hours (yes, there are quieter hours) of the week day mornings. Here we introduce students to the thrill of rock climbing in an amazing facility. I usually recruit 3-4 willing souls, many non-verbal with varying physical ability levels, to come and try the Planet Granite experience. Many come because they trust us as teachers, and they certainly rely on that word “trust” when they are perched 30 ft or more above the ground clinging to a couple of rocks on their first climb. At first, most students are aprehensive of letting go of those rocks once they reach the top, then having to put their faith in the hands of the belay rope which will lower them to safety. But in time, most do become more comfortable with the entire process. Clearly, at this point, they are convinced that going up is easier than coming down. Students usually begin on a manageable 5.2 or 5.3 climb to get some confidence and early success. Some are satisfied with this level of accomlishment, but in other cases, I’ve also had students complete 5.9 climbs as easily and natural as imaginable. Some will only get 8ft up a wall, but success is measured in many ways. Just getting both feet literally off the ground is a big deal to some who have never ventured far beyond the safe havens of their homes and schools. I’ve had a young blind woman complete 3 climbs of 5.4, only able to see faint images of the colored rocks bolted into the rough wall surface. It was amazing to watch her negotiate her way up the route, perhaps more amazing to us as teachers than it was to her. Try telling her then to let go of the rope and hold on to those blurry rock forms. Talk about trust in oneself and your belayer.
As a teacher, I can see confidence building with each visit a student makes to PG. Students can be transformed into more vibrant, confident and athletic individuals through this opportunity. The development of young people into adulthood isn’t easy , and for many of these students, the reality of that real world awaits them. Our hope is that we can offer them as many tools as possible to obtain the skills they will need to survive and thrive. PG has played a very instrumental role in supporting this process. On behalf of the students, staff and families of our post-senior program, I’d like to extend our sincere gratitude and appreciation for the wisdom in seeing the value of providing us with this fantastic experience within the walls of PG.
Guest blog by Randy Klein, APE Specialist SCCOE