A Tyrolean Traverse Into the School Year

On the first day of school this year, we took our students to the edge of a cliff, literally, to expedite this transition, like it or not. We set up a rock climbing experience called a Tyrolean Traverse that forced students to face their anticipation, excitement and anxiety as they traversed back into day one of school, upside down.

The start of a new school year is sometimes a rough transition. Anticipation, excitement and even anxiety rush through the minds of teachers, students and parents alike. New students are unsure of fitting in. Teachers want to make sure everything is setup just right. Parents invariably feel the emotions of their kids, even if some can’t wait for the start of school to have their adult life back again.

On the first day of school this year, we took our students to the edge of a cliff, literally, to expedite this transition, like it or not. We set up a rock climbing experience called a Tyrolean Traverse that forced students to face their anticipation, excitement and anxiety as they traversed back into day one of school, upside down.

The experience went something like this: Perched on the granite rocks above the smooth flowing Yuba River, students stepped into climbing harnesses and put on helmets. They clipped their carabineers, one at a time, onto the Tyrolean traverse and inched their way to the ledge and looked across the to the other side, about 50 yards away. With encouragement from other students and trip leaders, students leaned down, pushed off into the air, upside down and pulled themselves across safely to the cliff on the other side of the river.

Every single student and teacher made the crossing, even a couple with a fear of heights. Some even stopped midair and spun, smiling like it was the last day of school over the river below.

At the closing circle for the day, it was clear this activity served its purpose: to catalyze a conversation about the loss of summer and the start of the school year. It provided an open door for students and teachers alike to talk about the journey ahead, one that can provide anxiety or opportunity, one that, like the Tyrolean crossing, takes courage to begin and invariably feels good to finish.