Outreach: Community Service

Time with Teachers at Mission Cliffs

DSC 1994Mission Cliffs is no stranger to bringing kids to new heights through indoor climbing programs. Children benefit from learning and experiencing climbing in myriad ways, but recently an entire school was enriched by their commitment to supporting their local communities.

For the spring auction benefiting the Parent-Teacher Association, Touchstone Climbing donated equipment and day passes to Sherman Elementary School in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood for an event called "Time with Teachers." "Time with Teachers" offers Sherman students the opportunity to go on an outing with their educators. Physical Education teacher, Amy Matarazzo, and kindergarten teacher, Judy Alexander, have been climbing together at Mission Cliffs for the balance of the school year and decided that a "students climb, teachers belay day" would be an excellent way to support Sherman's PTA. In addition, it would be a fun a way to expose children to the joys that climbing indoors brings them on a weekly basis.

Sherman Elementary third graders Connor Jernigan, Sabina Lewis, Lina Shibley and fourth grader Brody Andrews were the lucky participants of the climb with teachers day. All four children had had some experience climbing, but none had ever had the experience of being belayed by their teachers or learning about climbing safety or techniques from them. "I felt good when I was rock climbing because someone was watching me. I thought it was really cool to have an adventure," said Brody. Connor agreed, adding, "I liked the feeling that when I was climbing I wasn't going to fall. I felt really safe and comfortable."

Lena described what it was like to climb with teachers from her school. "I didn't know that they were rock climbers, so I got to know something new about them. I liked when we were climbing up the walls and how we got to go on different [routes]. I went on a really high one!"

DSC 2048Teachers Matarazzo and Alexander were equally pleased. "The whole goal is to pass on skills and experiences that we love to students. The hope is that they will find the same joy and challenge in it that we do, and also build a love for physical activity from a young age," Matarazzo said. The event seems to have set this goal in motion, because when asked what she liked best about the day, Sabina quickly responded, "Everything." She was all smiles. When asked if she would continue rock climbing after the climb with her teachers, she responded, "Big time!"

"The problem solving element in climbing is directly related to the critical thinking work that we hope to nurture within a school setting," Alexander noted. Academic experiences should not exist in a bubble and the Mission Cliffs climbing outing underscores the fact: teachers and students alike are enriched by opportunities to grow and learn beyond the boundaries of a school's campus.

Thank you, Touchstone Climbing!

Richmond At-Risk Youth at Berkeley Ironworks

Recently a group of elementary school students from Richmond headed to Berkeley Ironworks as part of a summer school program that supports at-risk and under-served youth. The kids had a great time climbing at the gym. Katherine Bruce, the program coordinator spoke to the Touchstone Blog about the trip.

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We were given an opportunity to bring a group of our students to Ironworks Berkeley and spend a few hours climbing. The students were greeted positively and warmly, helped with harnesses and we had an excellent staff member with calm energy helping us belay and orienting us to the gym. The staff member, Kat, was very warm and supportive of the students trying as well as reassuring them that they would be taken care of when they climbed.

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The students were given freedom to explore and boulder as well as try climbing on rope. It was not only the first time for all of the kids to climb, it was some students' first time outside of Richmond. The environment, patrons of the gym as well as all the staff were highly accommodating and supported us feeling safe and capable of trying new things, taking on personal challenges and allowed the students to have an incredible experience outside of their typical daily lives.

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Many of our students felt inspired by what they were able to accomplish and mentioned wanting to come back again. We thank Ironworks and the staff for the wonderful opportunity to give us a place to explore and reach new heights! Many of our students made it all the way to the top! Thank you again! 

SF International High School at Dogpatch Boulders

The SF International High School paid Dogpatch Boulders a visit twice last month. Originally they had only planned to visit once, but they had so much fun on their first visit they asked to come back - and how could we say no!? These students are from all over the world and for the majority of them, English is their second language. 


Dogpatch staff member Noah worked with the students both times. "It was a blast," said Noah. "The great thing about teaching kids about climbing is that even if they don't understand your words, it's easy to demonstrate and get them out of their shell with movement." He took the time to show the students around the gym, along with some basic climbing movement and strategy. 


"The students were a blast on and off the climbing walls," said Dogpatch Manager Justin Alarcon. "Several of the students used the visit to practice their English by interviewing a few of us on staff for a school project."

The San Francisco International School has a program we are thrilled to be able to support. Students from all cultural, ethnic, and language backgrounds attend SFIHS. There are no entrance exams and there is no tuition or students; any student who has attended school in the United States for four years or less is welcome to enroll. It is programs like this that make San Francisco unique and make our neighborhood one of the best in the area!


June Jordan School for Equity at Dogpatch Boulders

Last month, students from June Jordan School for Equity (JJSE) made their first visit to Dogpatch Boulders.

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JJSE’s Intersession is comprised of three weeks of experiential learning courses where students learn by doing and actively engage in a variety of real-world experiences that challenge them physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Conducted outside of the four walls of the traditional classroom, these intensive courses create an opportunity for students to interact with adults and community members in new ways as they become immersed in unfamiliar environments, attempt new activities, or pursue longstanding passions in a more in-depth way all over the Bay Area. And what better place to do all that than a climbing gym!

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José Gutiérrez, a long time Touchstone Climbing member, brought his students into the gym to give them a glimpse into the wonderful world of climbing. We love being able to host the students during their Intersession. Climbing can be such a transformational activity, and we hope the kids had as much fun climbing as we had showing them the ropes!

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Mission High at Mission Cliffs

Tol Lau is a Math Teacher at Mission High School. He also teaches an advisory period, where he spends most of the time helping kids draft their college resumes. He decided to try something a little different.... Climbing!

Many of you have seen the big white building across the street from Dolores Park, but few SF residents know what goes on inside. Originally built in 1897, Mission High School was San Francisco’s first comprehensive high school. Now in the 21st century, Mission serves a diverse population, many of them immigrants to the United States. 40-50% of the students are classified as English Language Learners.


At the end of March, Mission Cliffs donated their time to host some of those students from Mission High School. These 11th grade grade students immigrated to the U.S. in search for more opportunities for their families and future. They came from countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Mongolia, China, Mexico, and the Philippines.


At Mission Cliffs, they got a chance to take a break from the endless hours of studying, writing personal statements for college and got to challenge themselves in a different ways by rock climbing! Students learned how to put on harnesses, double back and tie their figure eights.


Some were terrified of heights, many had some pumped arms, but all had a great time in the end. “These kids are super hardworking and I’m excited about what colleges they’ll be getting into next year. But getting a chance to learn how to rock climb for the first time shows a whole different side of them. I usually get to see what they’re like as students, but it’s interesting to see what they are like as people outside of the classroom. Rock climbing is a really unique experience that they will remember for years," said Lau.  




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