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Side Stepping

Traverse wall allows students to stretch their skills and more

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News Feature

On a recent Wednesday morning, the students in Professor Dan Chase’s class were climbing the wall.


The class being held that morning, Theory and Practice of Adventure Education, includes something known as traverse wall climbing. This explains the 8-x-20-foot panel with a series of hand- and footholds scattered across its surface attached to the rear wall of the Tinsley Gymnasium.

Students practice climbing laterally across the wall, using the holds as dictated by Dr. Chase or a classmate using a pointer (another student stands behind the climber as a “spotter,” for safety).

“It builds strength, balance and agility, as well as mental aspects,” Dr. Chase said.

It also emphasizes technique over brute strength. In fact, traverse wall climbing incorporates all standards recommended by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Dr. Chase knows all this because he literally wrote the book on using traverse walls for educational purposes. (Actually, he co-wrote it with Jim Stiehl.) And on this day his students were learning how they could use this activity in their future careers as physical education teachers and recreational professionals.

Traverse walls began appearing in schools shortly after federal grant money was made available in 2001 through the Physical Education for Progress program. The funding was meant to promote innovative physical fitness activities and programs. Many schools used a portion of that money to buy and install traverse climbing walls. The downside was that few knew how to make proper use of them, Dr. Chase said.

Hence his book, which was published in 2008, establishing him as an expert in using traverse walls as educational tools.

After climbing a few times on this morning, education major Abbey Barber’s arms had just about had it.

“The challenge is you have to figure out how you can move your body,” she said.

The traverse wall in Tinsley gets plenty of use: Dr. Chase said his Theory and Practice of Adventure Education is a course offered every semester. Both undergraduate and graduate students take it. (Story by John Winters, G’11, University News)

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