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ODU Climbing Wall Presents No Obstacle to Disabled Students’ Fun and Excitement

Norfolk Schools - Rock Wall

The happy shouts of schoolchildren echoed throughout the Student Recreation Center (SRC) at Old Dominion University the morning of March 20. But this was more than just the exuberance of youth. It was the excitement of experiencing something never thought possible.

A group of 35 students with multiple disabilities from Crossroads Elementary School in Norfolk came to ODU, where they were able to experience climbing on the spectacular, 25-foot rock wall inside the SRC.

The project was run out of the Adaptive Physical Education graduate course in the Darden College of Education, taught by Patrick Doyle. Norfolk Public Schools has participated in an Adaptive Physical Education Clinic with ODU for a number of years, through the division's Adaptive Physical Education Department, which Doyle leads. Several NPS schools visit ODU each year, and the students are paired with ODU adaptive PE teachers-in-training.

Brian Van der Linden, graduate assistant for the rock wall, worked on an in-class exercise to incorporate a climbing component for one of the visits. He worried - needlessly - the night before the event that the youngsters wouldn't enjoy the exercise. "It's been beyond my wildest dreams," he said the day of the visit. "I can't believe how well these young kids are doing. You turn around and they're 20 feet up the wall. It almost brings a tear to your eye."

There were no tears on the faces of the young students, only smiles and shouts of glee.

To help the children climb the wall, a rope ladder was constructed to hang from the SRC ceiling. Some of the hooks and outcroppings on the wall were equipped with horns, so visually impaired students could better make their climb.

In addition to ascending the wall, the young visitors participated in experiential obstacle course activities on the gym floor of the SRC, supervised by students from the Adaptive Physical Education course.

Located in the heart of campus, ODU's Student Recreation Center is the hub of sport, wellness and fitness activity at the university. In addition to the climbing wall, the 15,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2009, features an indoor swimming pool, a running track, a three-court gymnasium, group exercise studios, a cycling studio and racquetball courts. It also is the home of the Department of Human Movement Sciences in the Darden College of Education.