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Students climb through obstacles at Lansdowne Elementary

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It's Thursday night at Lansdowne Elementary School and there's a line of children waiting with their parents in the hallway outside of the gym.

The doors to the gym swing open and the families are greeted by physical education teacher Chris Potter, who invites the excited children to come inside.

The room is filled with equipment laden with ropes and objects to climb on, with a rainforest theme. Red, blue and green stuffed monkeys hang from equipment and fake plants attached to nets fall from the ceiling.

The "movement education equipment" travels to each school in Baltimore County for four weeks, Potter said. The equipment consists of A-frames of various sizes, poles, ladders and cargo nets. The purpose of the obstacle course is to help the children learn problem solving skills, Potter said.

"I like to see when they problem solve and learn something new," Potter said.

Potter has been teaching physical education at Lansdowne Elementary School for 27 years, and has been setting up the obstacle course for about 18. Potter sets the gym equipment up herself, which takes between 40 and 50 hours, she said.

"I do it for the kids. I like seeing the expression on their face when they do something new," Potter said.

Children at the school who have physical education once a week, have the opportunity to use the equipment for four weeks. This week is the last week they will have the equipment.

Over the period of four weeks, the children become more familiar with the equipment and begin to gain confidence, Potter said.

The children were invited to come to the school gym with their parents Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights this week and play in the "rainforest".

Titorian Huggins, Sr. of Lansdowne, one of the parents who attended, brought his two sons Titorian Huggins, Jr., 9, and Johjiro Huggins, 4. This was his third year at the event.

"I enjoy it. Anything I can do with my family I enjoy," Huggins said.

Armando and Julia Romero, residents of Lansdowne, brought their two children Brenda, 11, a fifth grader at the school and Erik, 5, who attends preschool.

Armando Romero said he appreciates the event because it allows them to enjoy spending time together as a family.

"I come here to play and have fun with my kids," he said as his children climbed a rope obstacle with their mother.

Schools are allowed to arrange the equipment in any way and can get as creative as they want.

Potter said she started out by creating a "jungle adventure" theme, which eventually evolved into the rainforest theme she has.

Different stations in the room are modeled after things found in a rainforest which allow the children to use their imagination.

Potter said she tried to switch to a "winter Olympics" theme four years ago, but the children wanted their "rainforest" to continue.

After setting up the course for so many years, it has continued to grow, Potter said.

"I'm finished adding stations. There's no room," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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