New equipment shows kids the ropes on teamwork

BY ENID WEISS Correspondent

Gym class at Metuchen High School will be a whole new ballgame this year thanks to grants that enabled the school to purchase a ropes course.

ENID WEISS Metuchen High School recently acquired equipment that allows students to take part in a new ropes course. ENID WEISS Metuchen High School recently acquired equipment that allows students to take part in a new ropes course. It’s a new philosophy of physical education that focuses on developing fitness, leadership, and team-building and problemsolving skills, according to Bruce Peragallo, vice principal at Metuchen High School. John Cathcart, athletic director at the high school, called the newly installed Low Ropes course a classic example of “experiential learning.”

There are several different “games” played on the course, such as trying to get everyone on a team through a “spider web” of cables strung among several wood posts. To make it more difficult, students are not allowed to use a section twice. Other games call on students to help one another get through a tire suspended several feet in the air or walk across a cable called the Mohawk Walk that also requires help from others.

“They have to support each other; it’s a trust exercise,” Peragallo said of the tight-wire or Mohawk exercise.

The course, including materials, setup, delivery and teacher training, cost $7,700, according to Cathcart. He received a Metuchen Edison Foundation grant for $6,500 to cover the cost of the ropes course. Then the Metuchen Edison Woodbridge YMCA helped out with another $1,200 to cover the cost of shipping the materials, through a grant from the Metuchen Edison Woodbridge YMCA Fund for Tomorrow.

“I wrote the grant and sent pictures [to the Metuchen Edison Foundation],” Cathcart said. He also explained its use in detail. “Eventually, they really liked it. This is a different type of learning.”

William Lovett, CEO of the Metuchen Edison Woodbridge YMCA, said in a statement that “the Low Ropes course challenges our young adults both mentally and physically. The goal of this program is consistent with the mission of the YMCA — building strong kids, strong families and strong communities.”

It’s not a matter of getting on the gym floor, running and shooting baskets, Cathcart said. It’s physically challenging in a different way. It requires some balance, some strength and mental acuity.

Every game has so many variations that no group can go through the entire course in one day or even one semester, Cathcart said. The Low Ropes course will become part of the athletic curriculum, in addition to the traditional high school gym subjects. He also expects that the school’s coaches will incorporate it into a couple of practices each season for team bonding and conditioning sessions.

It also follows the trend in physical education to move away from competition and toward cooperation, Peragallo said, and added, “We certainly need some competition, but we also need cooperation.”

“It really helps to build team spirit,” said School Superintendent Terri Sinatra. “I think it’s going to motivate students to be more proactive in health and fitness. We want students to develop lifelong skills. We want every kid to be comfortable in phys ed.”

Enid Weiss can be e-mailed at