Grant provides funds for rope course to challenge students physically, mentally

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Oak Grove Upper Elementary School students and faculty got the opportunity to see the first sign of the health and fitness grant from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation of almost $100,000 with the ropes challenge course. The 12-stage play area was installed last week.

Physical Education teacher Ryan McKenzie, who was involved in requesting the grant, showed off some of the course’s stages to the students at the ribbon cutting.

“They designed this challenge course to challenge students mentally and physically,” he told the students and faculty. That’s what they told us. But do you know what I said? I said this is going to challenge my kids socially because a lot of elements in this rope course requires teamwork.”

McKenzie said students had been studying how to work together.

“We’ve been talking about teamwork and we’ve been talking about good sportsmanship in P.E. classes the past few days,” he said. “So we really believe this rope course is going to help us move in the right direction when we talk about teamwork and team-building skills.”

Among the stages included in the ropes challenge course are the Porthole, A Frame, Ship to Shore, The Island, Triangle Transfer, TP Shuffle, TP Triangle, Spider’s Web, Trust Fall and Well Watch. McKenzie demonstrated the Trust Fall, where he fell backwards off a platform and two lines of teachers caught him. He also said the course, which is constructed mainly of telephone poles and steel cables, will allow each of the school’s 712 students to participate in at least one area.

“The main focus was to do something different and get these kids involved,” he said. “We have so much social media and electronics around today, and we want to get these guys involved in being outside and moving around. Also we want them to work on their social skills. We think we’re headed in the right direction.”

The grant for the 2017-18 school year helps the school to expand its “Fit to Be a Warrior” program with activities like a rock wall and teacher fitness facility along with renovations to the greenhouse and barn-classroom.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Health and Fitness Coordinator Eugenia King presented the school a check for $96,980 earlier this year. King said the grant is the first of its kind to an elementary school in Mississippi.

“We encourage the schools to develop some type of program,” she said. “Don’t just add a walking trail. Develop a program that focuses on not just students, but the staff and the community. For us, it was something different (at OGUE) because we had never funded something that is similar to this. For the kids to learn about farm animals and growing their food, it is very educational.”

The school campus is located at 1760 Old Hwy. 24, Hattiesburg.