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Dillingham Elementary students eagerly take on new traversing wall

After six years of fundraising by teachers and administrators, P.E. classes are enjoying the 60'-long, 8'-tall climbing wall. 

For years, a group of staff at the Dillingham Elementary School has been raising funds to buy a special piece of fitness equipment. Now, the new addition is driving kids and teachers up the wall – or should we say, across it. 


Audio transcript:

[TD]"Keep your feet at this line and traverse across. Does that make sense?

Credit Hannah Colton/KDLG
P.E. teacher Teresa Duncan has been going over safety rules for the climbing wall with all her elementary classes.

[kids] "Yeah!"

[TD] "So do you need to go above the blue?"

[kids] "No!"

P.E. teacher Teresa Duncan steps off a thick floor mat onto green and yellow plastic footholds. She’s showing a class of third graders how to keep their feet in the bottom third of the 8-foot-high wall.

[TD] "Being up high isn’t as important sometimes as the stretches you’re gonna get."

Duncan has been prepping her elementary gym classes with safety instructions for several days. Now they’re ready to try it out. This group makes their way single file across the 60 feet of traversing wall.

[LG] "My name is Liam Gross and I’ve been climbing on the climbing wall like four times now... It’s kinda challenging, not too much though. The tiny handholds over there are really hard. I can get through ‘em. I like it, cause it’s really challenging and it gives me more muscle."

For now, Duncan is just having the students practice climbing from one end to the other. But she's as excited as the students are about trying new things on the wall. She shows me a set of handholds designed to hold hula hoops vertically -- students will have to navigate around them. 

[TD] "I mean, that’s gonna be fun. *laughs* There’s just so many diff things you can do with it! And the kids have taught me different ways to use it.  I love the idea of latching several people together with a hoop in between. You could even do three or four people, so you have really really coordinate. It’s communication."

[CK] "My name is Cassidy Knutsen. It's fun that it’s challenging. You could do it over and over again to see how fast you could get."

Seeing these kids take on the wall is a longtime dream come true for retired Elementary School Principal Marilyn Rosene. She’s been fundraising since 2009.

[MR] "People would say, 'What're you raising money for? What're you raising money for?' We’re always concerned about upper body strength, and exercise. And the weather is such that we can’t always go outside, and it just kinda came together – well what about a climbing wall?"

Credit Hannah Colton/KDLG
Former principal Marilyn Rosene cheers along with students at the unveiling of the "Rosene Traversing Wall."

  Six years and over $16,000 dollars later, they were finally able to order the three 20-foot slabs of wall from a company in Minnesota. They were installed over the summer.

At a school assembly celebrating the climbing wall Wednesday morning, principal Nick Schollmeier unveiled its official name: the Rosene Traversing Wall.

[MR] "I certainly wasn’t expecting that. I mostly was just tickled, I wanted to get the wall up while I was still working here and it just didn’t happen. But Nick’s been great to work with... Yeah, that was certainly a tremendous honor. But it’s a community climbing wall."

Rosene and Duncan hope kids and community members will have fun, get stronger, and maybe even be inspired to take up a new sport.

[TD] "Rock climbing is big everywhere. This gives them a new avenue of exercise and enjoyment... and a vacation plan! Myself included. I hadn’t ever thought about rock climbing, and now I am!"

As anyone who's climbed knows, the first few times are killer on your hands.

Credit Hannah Colton/KDLG
Cassidy Knutsen (right) and other students show off their raw climbing hands.

[kids] "Ow—my hands hurt." "They’re really sore." "My hands got a little bit of blisters. --- Mine got too sweaty." "What do your hands feel like now? ...Numb."

Not to worry, parents. Your kids should be sporting some new calluses and arm muscles in no time. 

Contact the author at hannah@kdlg.org.