A full-sized, American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course playground opened at Aspen Academy last week as school officials announced middle school students will get daily recess beginning next year.

After the grand opening assembly on May 24, sixth-grader Lindsey Aldrich hit the course running. Lindsey and other students are already working to improve their times on the course, which includes a start and stop button like the television series.

“We had this vision of installing a professional obstacle course that was big enough and fun enough for even our middle-schooler students,” said Christi Heitzman, school spokeswoman.

The school met its $80,000 fundraising goal with the help of several local and corporate sponsors.

“Movement breaks help the students focus and perform better in school and helps further the development of social, emotional and mindfulness skill sets,” said Kaylord Saunders, Aspen’s behavioral support specialist, said in a release from the school.

The new playground comes on the heels of the school’s recent expansion.

Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground, a Golden Valley-based company, designed and installed the playground.

Aspen’s professional course is designed for both children and adults, according to Heitzman.

Dan Lanes, a sales consultant with the company, said similar playgrounds have been installed at Schaper Park in Golden Valley and at a school in Minnetonka, and two courses are slated to be installed in Jordan this year.

“In the office, we call it American Ninja Warrior meets NFL combine,” he said.

Challenge course timing apps allow students to track their progress and compete with others at Aspen and across the nation. The new equipment will also be used for physical education classes.

“Many studies have shown that students need at least an hour of activity a day,” Aspen Executive Director Connie Gayle said in a statement. “We want to make sure that Aspen Academy is helping students and staff meet this goal so they can have healthy bodies in addition to healthy minds.”


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