Terms of Use

This information is currently not accessible to residents living outside of Ontario. For more information on your own province’s Safety Guidelines, please consult with your provincial Ministry of Education.

Ce contenu n’est pas disponible à l’extérieur de l’Ontario. Veuillez communiquer avec le ministère de l’Éducation de votre province pour des renseignements sur les Lignes directrices sur la sécurité de votre province.

I Agree

Climbing - Challenge Course - Low Elements


Elementary - Curricular 2018

Portable or Permanent Installation at a commercial or school/board site

Where students perform a series of activities either while working with others on initiative tasks or responding to personal challenges close to the ground.

A low element course is one in which the only fall protection is spotting.

Also consult Climbing – General Procedures

This activity page must be presented to the activity provider prior to the activity taking place. The activity provider must meet the minimum requirements listed on this page. For more information on planning trips using outside providers, consult Appendix O - Outside Activity Providers.


A fully stocked first aid kit must be readily accessible. (Consult Appendix D – Sample First Aid Kit)

A working communication device (e.g., cell phone) must be accessible.

All of the equipment must be inspected by qualified on site ropes/challenge course personnel prior to the activity to determine that all of the equipment is safe to use.


Clothing and footwear appropriate to the chosen activities and environmental conditions must be worn. Tops with drawstrings are not permitted.

Exposed jewelry is not permitted.

Long hair and scarves must be secured. Devices (for example, hair pins, clips and barrettes) used to tie back long hair must not present a safety concern.


Determine that all of the facilities are safe to use.

All of the challenge course low elements must have been originally installed according to the current edition of the ACCT Standards.

A qualified Challenge Course Inspector must inspect all of the challenge course low elements annually. This inspection must use the most current edition of the ACCT Standards and be documented in a written report.

Recommended maintenance to the challenge course low elements noted in the report must be appropriately addressed.

There must be an adequate layer of wood chips at the base of any trees which support low challenge course elements to limit soil compaction.

If indoors, the floor surface under the ropes must be covered with Velcro mats:

  • cross-link foam 5cm (2”)
  • open-cell foam 5cm (2”)
  • polyurethane 5cm (2”)
  • dual-density 5cm (2”)

The mats must be checked regularly for wear and tear.

Trained on-site personnel must inspect all of the challenge course low elements prior to use.

Both the spotting path and the landing zone for all of the challenge course low elements must be cleared of debris and other obstacles prior to use.

When running takes place off school site for a warm up:

  • Teachers must do a safety check ‘walk through’ in order to identify potential problems prior to initial use of route or course.
  • Teachers must outline to the students the route or course (e.g., notice of areas to approach with caution) before the start of the run.
  • Teachers must determine that students are not crossing busy intersections unless directly supervised.

Special Rules/Instructions

Be aware of students whose medical condition (e.g., asthma, anaphylaxis, casts, previous concussion, orthopaedic device) may affect participation. (Consult Fundamentals of Safety)

Completed medical forms for each participating student must be accessible.

Prior to the first lesson, teachers must inform climbing instructors of students who have special needs.

Refer to the school board’s transportation procedures related to communicating with parents/guardians the location of an off-site activity and the means of transportation used as well as to the need for obtaining parent/guardian permission.

Students must not participate in the activity until they receive information on concussion prevention specific to the activity, inherent risks of the activity (e.g. outline possible risks and ways to minimize the risks), and procedures and rules for safe play. Students must receive instruction on the importance of reporting symptoms related to a suspected concussion.

Risks involved with each activity and how to lower the risk of an injury from occurring must be communicated to students.

Activity and course elements that are introduced must be based on skills that are taught and appropriate for the age, ability level, language and and experience of the students.

Previous training, fitness level and the length of time and intensity of physical activity must be taken into consideration.

Skills must be taught in proper progression.

A proper warm-up and cool-down must be included.

Teachers, instructors and students must be aware of safety procedures.

Students must be made aware of expectations as they relate to:

  • behaviour
  • emergency procedures
  • signal to assemble
  • boundaries for activities

The low element challenge course must operate in accordance with the most current ACCT Standards.

A qualified, designate Course Manager who is responsible for overseeing the staffing and operation is required.

The low element challenge course must establish and follow local operating procedures (LOPS) for all elements.

The LOPS must incorporate any recommendations made by the qualified Challenge Course Professional.

When students are spotting, an introductory lesson that incorporates the following items must precede the activity:

  • the instruction to step down rather than fall off elements
  • the responsibility for another student’s safety
  • instruction and repeated practice on:
    • concept of spotting
    • general principles for spotting such as stance and hand position
    • communication and the climber/spotter contract
  • specific instructions for the particular challenge course element

When students have not been taught to spot or are not able to spot effectively, spotting must be performed by one or more trained instructors.

Instructors must address the effect of size differences between a potential low rope participant and his or her spotters when assessing the suitability of using student spotters.

If low ropes course is outdoors, the school board’s lightning protocol must be shared with the operator/activity provider.

Teachers, instructors and supervisors must be aware of the possibility of peer pressure and make sure no student is coerced into participating.

Adequate liquid replacement (personal water bottles, water fountains) must be accessible for students before, during and after physical activity to prevent dehydration.

Environmental Considerations

When environmental conditions may pose a risk to student safety (e.g. thunderstorms [lightning] or student(s) with asthma, triggered by air quality), teachers must take into consideration their school board/school’s protocols and procedures related to:

  • environmental conditions (consult Appendices F-1 to F-6: Lightning Protocol, Sample Air Quality Index, Sample Temperature, Tornado, Ultra Violet Index, and Wind Velocity Preparedness Guides]); and
  • insects (e.g., mosquitoes and ticks [consult the school/school board’s protocols and/or regional Public Health Department’s website]).

Students must receive instruction on safety procedures related to environmental conditions and be made aware of ways to protect themselves (e.g. sun burn, heat stroke).

At all times the school board’s weather and insect procedures are the minimum standards. In situations where a higher standard of care is presented (e.g., outside activity providers, facility/program coordinators), the higher standard of care must be followed.


On site supervision by both a teacher and qualified instructor(s) who must be present for all aspects of the program.

Students must be informed that the use of equipment and the gymnasium are prohibited without supervision. In addition to verbal communication, the doors must be locked or signs must be posted indicating that students are not allowed to use the gym unless appropriately supervised.

Supervision Ratios

  • Grades 1-3: 1 instructor per 8 students
  • Grades 4-8: 1 instructor per 12 students

Qualifications Applicable to All Installations and Sites

All lead low element challenge course instructors must complete an annual training course taught by a qualified challenge course Trainer OR be currently certified in ACCT Standards as a challenge Course Practitioner (Level 1 or 2).

Instructors must be trained in, understand, demonstrate and adhere to a directly relevant skill set for Challenge Courses – Low Elements.

A relevant skill set is a described set of skills developed by recognized Challenge Course Professionals.

This training must be directly applicable to the course/elements at the site. This training must be documented.

Each activity that requires spotting needs the direct supervision of a trained instructor.

Student must be trained in spotting skills and strategies prior to filling the role of a spotter.

Instructors must rotate spotters so that no one becomes physically or mentally fatigued.

All instructors must be at least 18 years of age or older to teach the introductory lesson and/or be an instructor.

Individuals who have been trained and can demonstrate the required instructor skills and who are 16 years of age or older can assist with instruction but must be directly supervised by a qualified instructor.

First Aid

On school site: Follow the school's first aid emergency response (consult Appendix E - Sample First Plan and Sample First Aid Emergency Response) and the school board’s concussion protocol (consult the Concussion section). An emergency action plan and response to deal with evacuations and lock downs must be followed and communicated to students.

Off school site: At least one instructor or an individual responsible for providing first aid must have current First Aid qualifications equivalent to or exceeding St. John Ambulance Emergency First Aid with CPR Level C + AED.

Also see Fundamentals of Safety section to view complete safety requirements.