Climbing Wall Lesson Plan

Each elementary school in my local school district has a traverse climbing wall. The difference between a traverse wall and a general rock climbing wall is that the traverse wall spans the length of a wall and is only approximately 12-15 feet high. Students primarily climb sideways on these walls, sometimes through hoops connected at different points. The handles look like those on usual climbing walls: colorful rock shaped holds of various thicknesses and at various heights.

The goal of my lesson plan is to utilize the wall at the small private school mentioned in my collaborative project. The school has approximately 100 students ranging from Kindergarten through tenth grade. I have planned a traverse climbing lesson for each grade, with age appropriate activities. I plan on seeing each grade one day per week, and I will plan activities for four weeks. Activities are based on ideas in the Climbing the Walls Manual (Everlast Climbing Industries, Inc., 2006).

Week One/Class One: Introduction, Safety and Practice

I would start with an introductory group activity such as a run around the gym through different obstacle stations (climbing over BOSU balls, jumping rope the length of one wall, galloping another length of wall, and basketball dribbling the last length). After about 10 minutes, and enough time for me to complete taking attendance, I will have them gather in front of the climbing wall and sit on the floor. The most important lesson to teach is safety. I will go over safety rules with each class and then ask grade appropriate questions at the end.

Safety Rules: No feet above red line; no jumping down from the wall; no climbing over or around another child (wait your turn); step off the mat after you finish; do not wear jewelry while climbing; the teacher must be present when you climb; be mindful of what you are doing; report any damaged equipment you find; have fun.

The manufacturer of the wall at the school, Everlast Climbing Industries, Inc. (2006), provides written test samples for various grades in the wall manual. Since I will have very excited students eager to climb, I will not give the written test, but ask the questions aloud in the group. Since the rules have to be practiced to be learned effectively, I will have the students begin climbing after the oral test and then give out red cards to those who break a rule. Receiving a red card means the student will sit out a turn.

Climbing Activity Grades K-2 (each class has its own 50 min. class on the same day): the students will begin climbing by keeping their feet on the floor. The floor will be marked with a line of masking tape and they will practice keeping their feet on the line while gripping the holds with their hands. After doing this twice, I will place small flat disks on the floor so they can practice stepping to each, similar to stepping to each foot hold on the wall. After completing this about three times, I will have them try climbing half the length of the wall, marking the halfway point with a cone. By the end of class, I will have moved the cone for the entire length. There is enough room on the wall for 4-5 students to climb at once. Again, I will stress not to pass the climber in front of a student. I would use the last 10 minutes of class to get their feedback about the activity and discuss rules, etc.

Climbing Activity Grades 3-5 (each class has its own 50 min. class on the same day): After covering safety rules and the use of red cards, I will begin with the disks placed along the floor. Once the students have practiced this about three times, I would have them climb along the wall, beginning with the halfway point marked by the cone. Finally, after the entire wall is traversed, the students will try to climb up and down in a zig-zag pattern. The goal is try to touch every high hand hold without crossing over the red line. I would use the last 10 minutes of class for feedback and discussion.

Climbing Activity Grades 6-10 (each class has its own 50 min. class on the same day): After the safety lesson, the students will practice traversing the entire wall. The second activity will be to climb up and down in the zig-zag pattern. Finally, I will have them climb across the wall as I randomly call out different colors which pertain to the next color of hand or foot hold they will be allowed to reach. If a person falls, he or she needs to start again by returning to the line.

Week 2/Class 2: Skill Builders

After a group activity, I would review last week’s safety lessons with all classes.

Climbing Activity Grades K-2: First, they would traverse the wall in the same way they ended the last class (traversing the entire wall). Then, they would learn how to climb in the zig-zag pattern. Finally, to develop holding strength in the upper body, we would see how many students could fit on the wall at once (they would be stationary in one spot). The first person would decide where he or she would like to hold, then the second person would do the same (at a safe distance). We would try to get as many people as possible on the wall at once, while trying to hold on for as long as possible. We could have fun competitions between teams. Then, the last 10 minutes would be a discussion period.

Climbing Activity Grades 3-5: First, they would traverse the wall with simple climbing and zig-zag climbing like they ended the previous class. Then, I would call out the random colors for the foot and hand holds for them to follow. Then, to help develop upper body strength, we would play the ‘all at once on the wall’ game. Then, the last 10 minutes would be a discussion period.

Grades 6-10: The class would begin where they left off last week with simple traverse and zig-zag climbs. Then we would play a new game. To set up, I would have placed numbers on the holds. The class would be divided into two person teams (with 5 panels, there would be about 2-2 person teams per panel). One teammate would be the climber and the other would call out the numbers the climber must touch (numbers will be drawn out of a hat, not selected by the team member). Each team would have two minutes to touch as many numbers as possible before they switch teams. Then, the last 10 minutes would be a discussion period.

Week3/Class3: Fun Challenge

After starting with a 10-20 minute group activity, we would climb again on the wall.

Climbing Activity grades K-2: We would with free climb so the kids could climb across in any manner they choose (while following all safety rules). I would randomly call out different colors they need to climb on. Then, we would musical climb. Like musical chairs, the students will free climb across the wall and stop when the music stops. I will then draw numbers out of a hat and the student holding that number must jump down and the game starts again.

Climbing Activity Grades 3-5: We would start with a free climb period, then perform a scavenger hunt. Each hand hold will have different pictures of items taped behind the holds (placed where you can not see them without climbing over that hold). The classes would be divided into 2 person teams. One teammate would mark the items off a list and the other would climb on the wall in search of them. Once a team finished a list, it would pick up a new list a start again.

Climbing Activity Grades 6-10: We would start with a free climb period and then build webs on the wall. The students would split into 2 person teams and draw a card with a geometric shape. 2 2-person teams would be assigned a panel, so five teams at a time could take a turn. While one teammate holds a ball of yarn, the other wraps the string around the hand holds only while climbing until the shape is created.

Week4/Class4: Educational Fun

After starting with a 10-20 minute group activity, we would climb again on the wall.

Climbing Activity grades K-2: Students in this group are working either on learning the alphabet or simple words. Each hand and foot hold will be marked with letters of the alphabet. Each class will be divided into 2 person teams. In the Kindergarten class, each team tries to complete the alphabet (not in order) while climbing. One person will hold a letter list, marking off any letter touched by the hand or foot and then switch until the alphabet is done. In the first and second grades, the letters touched must create simple words on the list.

Climbing Activity Grades 3-5: These grades are getting the hang of addition and subtraction, and even multiplication and division. Each hand hold will have a math problem taped to it (the level of difficulty will increase with each grade). Each class will be divided into 2 person teams. One person must cross the wall holding only the hand holds of problems he answer correctly. The team-mate has the answer key and confirms his guess; then they switch.

Climbing Activity Grades 6-10: Students in this group have learned about money and simple budgeting. Pictures of various shopping list items are placed on the hand holds. Each class is divided into 2 person teams. Each team will be given a certain amount of money and must be able to cross the entire wall before spending all their money. One person handles the money, the other climbs and shops.


Everlast Climbing Industries, Inc. (2006). Climbing the walls: an activity and resource
guide for traverse wall facilitators. Mendota Heights, MN: Everlast Climbing Industries, Inc.


The activities for the 6-10 kids is very cool i really think that kids will like doing that. But i think a little more explaination in all the activities would help a little bit more. All in all nice work.

The lesson sounds great. I think that by using a traverse wall, that you will get some more of the kids involved that may be afraid of heights.

I would love to have this equipment available. I especially liked the educational fun day where you incorporated other subjects into your PE lesson. I know it is always a push and this is a unique way to do it, especially the grocery list for the older students and not spending all the money. Good job.

These lessons sound like good ideas. It's great that you have a traverse wall available. I'm sure using a traverse wall will expose kids to rock climbing when they may not get the opportunity anywhere else. It's also good that the wall is shorter than a normal rock climbing wall for those who might not feel comfortable climbing a taller wall and it would be a great workout. I only tried a rock climbing wall a couple times and was surprised at how tough it was. Great idea for good physical activities and getting students exposure to something new.

The traverse rock climbing walls are very fun, plus, because of the height, can be used with a wide variety of ages and skills. It is great for upper body strength development as well, which many kids lack in these days.