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Physical control in the schoolyard

Walter Odekerken (Sports teacher and Deputy Headteacher of the Aloisiuskolleg)


Report about the construction of a Calisthenics centre at the Aloisiuskolleg: a climbing, playing and training facility.

These days, simple control of one's body is no longer self-evident among children and youngsters. As a long-standing sports teacher of Aloisiuskolleg I regularly confront both children and youngsters of either sexes in everyday teaching with a variety of types of physical activities, or as the experts say, with a variety of physical skills. In the process, it becomes increasingly clear that what should be the most natural thing at a certain age, can no longer be taken for granted and if at all, only to a very rudimentary extent.

As a result, the sports council of our grammar school started some brain storming on how to create opportunities at our school grounds to enable our students to familiarise themselves again with forms of movement, which help them both to distract their attention from their stressful everyday school life and, at the same time, motivate them to put their mobile phones down and challenge themselves and each other to test out their limits.

Last year in spring 2017 this idea and the respective request for support was put on the agenda of our friends' association. Since through an annual membership fee, the parents enable our students to experience "something special" at our school, such as the big project of the makeover of our library and the creation of a centre for independent study, it was a welcome occasion for me to present the respective concept design to the supervisory board of the association.

In search of an appropriate concept design for our school, I soon discovered that the German market for the production of children's play and sports equipment for secondary schools is quite limited. However, there was one provider who distributes a product which is made from recycled plastics. He offered a "climbing scaffold" with certain interesting elements. Thus, I prepared the proposal for the next meeting of the friends' association. However, it soon turned out that this product would not attract the students of our school, especially the older ones as this approach was very similar to the common design patterns and concepts of many kindergartens and primary schools in the surrounding area.

Hence, we established a working group consisting of students, parents, school staff and teachers to analyse once more the needs, and especially those of the older students. With this in mind I found a company that has committed itself to a concept already established in the USA and becoming increasingly popular also in Europe. During an on-site meeting, the respective appropriate solution for Aloisiuskolleg was presented as a model of the so-called Calisthenics area.

 Calisthenics is a term derived from the Greek words „καλός (kalos „beautiful“) und σθένος (sthenos "power/strength“). It describes a type of training which involves the whole body by only using one's own body weight without any additional training weights.

In the past twenty years, some specific training exercises were developed which originally come from the USA and which focus on one's one bodyweight. Wherever these simple devices were available, either outdoors or in sports parks, one could train independently with pull-up bars, exercise on the bars and passageways by almost exclusively using one's own bodyweight. Soon, systems were developed which especially focus on this type of exercise. For instance, the Calisthenics area installed in the park of Bonn's Rheinaue district showed us how these sports facilities can be used.


Modification of the play and sports facilities at the Aloisiuskolleg:

  • Horizontal and pull-up bars of different heights
  • Hanging ladder
  • Supporting elements (bars)
  • Wall bars
  • Bouldering wall
  • High net
  • Stackline

Due to the fact that there is a seating area around the Calisthenics centre, the physical activity on the school yard becomes even more attractive.

The important thing is that the sports area is both available for students during school breaks and also integrated as a permanent element into sports lessons. However, for the installation on the spacious schoolyard where the facility is freely accessible, an appropriate fall protection system was indispensable.

For this purpose the association made available the complete amount of 41,000 euros. It was only this incredible sponsorship which finally allowed us to realise the project. Thus, the project implementation could be started during the 2018 summer holidays and finished about three weeks later. At the beginning of October during the day of the open door we officially inaugurated the new attraction. Thanks to the fabulous choreographs of our sports colleague Mr Gallwitz and the amazing show realised by the Calisthenics group Barmadness, the young and older guests were completely amazed. Already during the first few school weeks the great popularity as well as the challenges of the new sports facility were clearly visible. As a consequence, the demand for plaster has considerably increased in our school secretariat as after the 50th turnaround on the high bar the blisters on the hands start causing pain.

Photo: Wolfgang Sudmeier, Aloysiuskolleg


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