Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Art of Scrambling

Love in the Rocks, Enchanted Rocks, TX

Children have been scrambling for thousands of years.

Until now.

In a short span of time, television, computers, and over-protection have squelched a natural instinct essential to our survival and physical movements. Kids used to go scramble up and down boulders and trees, developing muscles and agility that proves essential well into adult years. The boulders have been replaced with a couch and fear of lawsuit over a scraped knee.

While setting up rock climbs for a group of kids learning the sport of outdoor climbing, I created a mix of challenges, making sure we had the full spectrum of easy and difficult climbs.  The kids struggled. I climbed up to physically place their feet. I figured they have yet to develop the critical thinking skills required for structured climbing. No one was brave enough to touch the more "difficult" climbs. That's ok. I didn't push it. While challenges are good, I did not see the immediate need for them to descend after a very negative experience.  We broke for lunch.

Lunch evolved into fascination over watching kayakers and rafters test their skills in the gorge as well as keenly observing the tadpoles and larvae thriving in the pools of water on the rocks left from the recent rains.

These intent observations evolved into a long supervised scrambling session. I instructed them to keep their rock shoes and harnesses on (to keep them in the mental mode of climbing). We spent a long time scrambling over boulders, as well as being awed by the continual discoveries of wildlife and plants found in the cracks and pools. We even found a huge hole formation in the bedrock, which provided a fun way of sneaking in bouldering practice (climb in, climb out. The hole came up to my shoulders and I'm a tall gal!)

We probably spent at least an hour scrambling, exploring and laughing. I guess I could have herded them back to the ropes sooner, but I had an ulterior motive. Without even realizing it, they were developing confidence on the rock and reinforcing climbing techniques in a fun and non-intimidating environment. Furthermore, they were developing a love for nature, a personal passion of mine to see kids outside.
Arches National Park, Utah
It worked. I suggested that we get one more climb in before breaking down. I couldn't get them off the ropes!! Their climbing and attitudes noticeably increased tremendously compared to the morning. They were self- motivated to try everything, even the harder climbs. They were even telling each other where to put feet and hands. They had the opportunity to let their bodies rediscover what children have been doing for thousands of years. They found the ancient rhythm of childhood and it showed.

For rock climbing programs geared towards children, I encourage instructors to allow supervised and safe free play in between structured climbing sessions. The benefits are numerous. Not only will the children tap into their ancient rhythm, they re-learn the joys of exploring a video game free nature wonderland!
Enchanted Rocks, TX

1 comment:

  1. Yet another inspirational quote! There is a chance I will be working at the Boys and Girls Club this summer, and this really was an encouraging message for me. Keep on smiling :-)