George Evans Junior High School physical education teacher Michael Jennings is introduced during an announcement of the $10,000 Beyond the Books Education Foundation grant Thursday at the Bloomington school. 

BLOOMINGTON — Evans Junior High School teacher Michael Jennings believes his subject needs innovation the same as any other.

"P.E. is kind of cliché with soccer and football and basketball, and we want to be outside the box,” he said. "We want to open the door for (students) outside some of the (traditional) sports."

Jennings got one heck of a crowbar Thursday: a $10,000 grant from Beyond the Books Educational Foundation that will fund a 30-foot-high climbing wall in the school's gym.

The school hopes to open the wall before September so they can start using it for projects at the start of the 2015-16 school year, Jennings said.

Evans students will get to participate in Rock Solid Assistant, a rock-climbing unit that "will teach students to be leaders, use problem-solving skills, learn to use constructive criticism and accept instruction (from peers)," according to a news release.

Jennings said he's excited to partner with Upper Limits, a Bloomington-based business with its own climbing facility, to hone a physical fitness regimen for students.

"This will make everybody that much more excited about P.E.," he said. "It's one more exciting way to live fit."

Jennings found out he received the grant during a press event Thursday at Evans. Beyond the Books board members announced three Evans projects receiving grants out of 36 total funded projects this year.

Beyond the Books President Rich Beal said the foundation received 100 grant applications totaling more than $125,000. It will give away about $43,000 in funds, including  $10,000 from the Shirk Family Foundation.

"We wish we could fund all of these, but that's our continuing goal," Beal said. "If you don't receive (a grant), please submit again next year."

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh


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