Eric's class notes

Place to keep a log of classes and noteworthy things.

Game-based learning week. Definitely outside my comfort zone. We ended up playing only 3 games because of time.

Game 1: Balance bridgelayer

Goal: Develop fluency in balance while carrying/placing stuff. Call it “functional balance.”

Object of game: Get from one location to another across a road of balance trainers by walking a trainer out to the end of the line, placing it, and going back for another.

Setup: All you need is a bunch of balance trainers and a fairly long space to traverse. Split class into teams of 2 or 3.

Rules/how played: Players must place a bar, then walk out to end and back to “activate” the bar. Activated bars can be used to transport more bars out to the end.

Emergent behavior: It was fun to watch students try to hack the rules, help each other, use the bars as crutches, etc. When they came up with a hack, I did not add rules to close the loophole, but encouraged them to keep thinking up ways to make stuff happen.

Game 2: Balance cooperative

(thanks to Briggins for the idea)

Goal: Develop fluency in balance and learn to support other humans balancing.

Setup: Irregular ring of balance trainers (bars), one PVC pipe section given to each person.

Rules/how played: Everyone must be on metal bars (not wooden feet), everyone must hold onto PVC pipes. Grip may be adjusted, but cannot be let go. We walked in a circle and completed lots of laps.

Emergent behavior: Students began figuring out that this challenge is less about individual balance skill than about communication and cooperation. Students figured out that it's easier to stand on angles where trainers meet, so would move from “anchor” to “anchor” where they could stand solidly and support classmates moving along straighter sections of bars.

We lost ourselves in this challenge, and spent about half the class figuring out how to cooperate, how to communicate, what angles were best for supporting each other, etc. Everyone was surprised at the amount of exertion required to accomplish the challenge.

Game 3: Ball game

Goal: Develop fluency with simple movement and awareness of environment with a distraction.

Setup: Any field of obstacles is fine for this. We used 1 ball for 6 players, though with fewer obstacles, it's possible to introduce additional balls.

Rules: Whoever has the ball must call a person's name and throw them the ball. I've played this with ruleset “say name, throw ball, move 2 or 3 steps.” This evening, I went with more freeform: move constantly, throw the ball within 5 seconds.

Emergent behavior: students learned each other's names. Even though they're all regulars, they forget, and so it's good to get them back into calling each other by name. After a while, we expanded our arena to add more complex movements and paths. Finally, we began using bank shots off of equipment and fellow students. I.e. I call Alice's name, but throw the ball to Bob, who then has to help get the ball to Alice.

The added complexity led to much hilarity, students were able to move around within their limits, and everyone had to stay alert to their surroundings because they couldn't rely on waiting for their names to be called.

Goal: Learn to problem-solve in complex space (specifically by moving objects). Subgoals: improve use of peripheral vision, improve climbing skill, improve creative manipulation of objects. (Also, I want to incorporate more secret strength training into class.)

Setup (no photo): old court zone from climbing wall to observation deck stairs (negotiated with Nathan to change zone orientation). I used a few tiki, balance, and lower elements to create 2-3 obvious paths across the space.

The culmination: Students carry load from somewhere on the climbing wall to the observation deck stairs (with constraints).

Steps to get there:

  • Work on peripheral vision and multitasking with objects
    • Stand in circle, pass volleyball around and across
    • Students focus on eye-level point across circle and continue passing volleyball w/o looking directly at it
    • Students must count by 3s as a group, then pass/catch volleyball w/o looking directly at it (E has ball, passes to C, says “51”, C passes to T, says “54”, etc.
  • Get familiar with objects to be carried in challenge
    • Stand in circle, pass tennis balls, heavy balls, and suitcase. Feels like strength training, but also exploring different ways to hold stuff
    • Get familiar with space (particularly the climbing element).
  • Quick review of climbing fundamentals, focus on footwork while ascending slab section of wall
    • To encourage good footwork, limit students to “must place feet and not slide onto holds”
    • To get ppl past upper body climbing bias, handicap them (climb with one hand)

The challenge: choose a load to carry – 1 suitcase or 2 heavy balls or 5 tennis balls. Start at slab portion of climbing wall and get to command center stairs. Then choose a different load and transport from stairs up climbing wall. Simple rules: you are “naked” (cannot use your clothes to store the objects), the ground is lava, you can put down your load briefly, but cannot throw it, you may recover it if dropped, but cannot touch the ground to do so.

Everyone ran at the same time, and helped each other as they found paths. Energy was such that other students in the gym who saw the challenge wanted to try it after class, and I ended up leaving stuff set up into Open Gym (by popular demand).

Students loved the class and had a lot of fun with the problem solving. There’s still stuff I could have done better or had to change on the fly during class:

  • Planning/timing: I could have spent a little less time on prep/warmup/strength and given them more time to try the challenge. Students only got 2 runs at the challenge, and wanted to try with the 3rd load.
  • Safety: Suitcase is so heavy, it seemed better to spot the case than to spot the students when on climbing wall
  • Safety: Had to alter the wall challenge to traverse with the suitcase instead of slab climb due to safety (not able to spot effectively, high price of failure dropping suitcase from 10’ high)

Reflections on teaching a “silent class.”

Stuff covered:

  • 2-hand backward inversion on Blueper (Tyson wants “Blooper,” but that's dumb)
  • front inversions on low bar in cage (front dismounts?)
  • 2 small flow courses, one including the inversion, the other an easy cage climb up to Command Center and back down via a different route.

Quick ground rules: students are welcome to talk. I told them ahead of time that I wasn't going to speak until class was over. When class started, I shut up and ran it.

My usual style involves quite a bit of talking, taking advantage of my big voice to keep class on track and coordinated, and also a constant stream of jokes, etc.

Not talking forced me to:

  • break things down to simpler movements
  • watch students more closely to see if they were following or doing things properly
  • limit my cues to 1 per round of things done (because charades is hard)
  • use more touch/kinesthetic cues, both for movement and management
  • change my “standard” class
  • find different strength drills (turtle passing was very fun)

At the end of class, I talked to students, reviewing what we went over and why, then asked for feedback and questions. From the students:

  • All students enjoyed the class a lot, probably for the uniqueness
  • Two students noted that they have a hard time learning from ppl talking, and have to do things in order to learn them
  • One student noted he is a visual learner and that the silent format worked very well
  • One student noted that he is not visual or kinaesthetic, and tends to break down movements in his head and talk through them. We think that's auditory.

One coach noted that he “really liked the energy of my class.”


  • Would this work in a kids class?

I would do it again.