Oakland Tech and GWPC Making P.E. Fun Again

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Under the guidance of GWPC member and Oakland Tech P.E. Instructor Carlos Bover (affectionately known as ‘Coach’ to his students), students are redefining what’s possible in a P.E. class by pushing their limits on the climbing wall!  This is the programs 4th year running, so we decided to turn over control of our monthly outreach series to Coach Bover and this year’s group of ‘A Period’ students.

Oakland Tech climbs at GWPC

My name is Carlos Bover. I teach Physical Education at Oakland Technical High School. I teach a 10th-12th grade, A-Period class which goes from 7 to 8am. A few years ago, I suggested the possibility of offering an A-Period physical education class, for those students that did not have time to take PE during the regular school hours. I started A-Period and after the first year, I realized that this class had the potential to offer a unique and diverse P.E. experience by taking the students off-campus to visit local recreational businesses. After receiving approval from my school’s administration, I started contacting various local businesses to offer my students the best, most interesting P.E. experience possible.

I contacted the staff at GWPC and quickly made contact with their manager Jeremy Yee. Mr. Yee loved my idea and worked with us to develop a program that was both enriching and affordable for my students, many of whom come from economically disadvantaged families. Thus, rock climbing was introduced to the A-Period P.E. class, as a way to increase the physical fitness of the students, and to grant them an opportunity to learn sport/activity that can contribute to their health & wellness for the rest of their lives. We go to GWPC once a week for the entire school year where the students are introduced to climbing in a controlled and safe setting. They learn basic belaying and climbing techniques, as well as ongoing lessons about safety, reliability, support and how to work together. The number of students in my A-Period class can vary from 40-50 (sometimes more).

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 12.16.01 PMI’ve also tried to structure this class so that it’s more than just “free-time” at a Climbing Gym, so my student’s grades are dependent on a series of monthly climbing “tests” which include their retention of safety rules/techniques as well as challenging them on new routes & boulders. Since we spend 1 day a week at GWPC, rock climbing is 20% of their semester grade. The students are also tested on their knowledge of the history of rock climbing, climbing techniques, and the geography/geology of various climbing areas.

Most of the students that take this class have never been climbing or even heard anything about it. Over the course of 8 months, most students improve from struggling on V0/5.6 to completing multiple V3/5.10 climbs, and many students show even more rapid improvement. Some of my students have even gotten hooked and continued climbing on their own time even after the class is over. Rock climbing is the reason why many of my students take this A-Period class. It gives them an opportunity to enjoy the process of learning, have a good workout and share a unique experience with their peers.

Through it all, GWPC has been amazing to Oakland Tech. They have been accommodating to the specifics of our group, they provided staff to help teach and test students, they made it affordable for Oakland Public School students and most importantly have provided a safe and supportive environment for the students to learn and develop a love for climbing. On behalf of all the A-Period students for the past 4 years… thank you so much!