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Adventure programming teaches 21st century skills
Michael Everson and Steve Cureton learn orienteering the old fashioned way – with compass and map and without GPS. (Photo by Kristen Tyler)
Tom Thibeau walks the tight rope with spotting from Tom Prendergast, Devon Hamel and Brent Houghton. (Photo by Kristen Tyler)
“The Wall” teaches teamwork and cooperation. The objective is for every member of the class to get up and over the wall. Andrea Benya and Hannah LaPointe pull Heather Theraiult up and over. (Photo by Kristen Tyler)
RUMFORD -- Imagine the skills that workers will need to succeed in the 21st century. Critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, communication, collaboration and leadership are just a few. Now imagine how budget-strapped schools will need to develop ways to teach these skills.
Mountain Valley High School teacher Kristin Tyler incorporated these skills in a physical education class called adventure programming.
The class uses a ropes course to teach many life skills including teamwork, trust, communication and problem solving. During cold weather, the class moves inside to a climbing wall in Puiia gymnasium. They also participate in non-traditional sports like roller hockey.
So does it work? According to Senior Hannah LaPointe, it does! “The purpose of one of the activities was to get everyone over the wall. We lifted people up and pulled them over. It’s meant to be hard – a team-building activity. We learned how to work with other people.”
“When we read the syllabus at the beginning of class, it told us the class was to teach us how to trust fellow classmates and overcome fears,” explained Junior Matthew Hosie.
Junior Adam Volkernick described how trust was built between climbers and their belay partners. Belaying is a process to protect a climber from falling using a rope to hold the weight of the climber and arrest the fall.
Hosie added, “We had a few classmates who didn’t like heights. We eventually got them to the top of the course because they trusted us to belay them.”
“Problem solving is a huge factor with that course. You try to go as fast as you can or try to figure out how to get everyone to a point. You have to figure your way around obstacles. I thought it was a brainteaser at times,” Volkernick recalled.
Adventure programming students see the connection between skills learned on the ropes course and skills they will need to be successful in life.
Volkernick said, “Cooperation is a key skill that I can use in later life. Cooperation may be important in a job, for example. During the ropes course, we needed everyone on the team to try their best to succeed in the activity. We learned to cooperate and motivate each other.”
“Team work and communications were the big things that I could use in later life. You also have to trust people,” concluded Hosie.
Senior Delaney Paterson recalled, “The class taught me to work with other people. There are some activities that you simply can’t do alone. I learned to solve problems in different ways. Also trust helps the group to do things that might be scary. All are lessons I could use in later life.”
For budget-conscious taxpayers, the equipment to teach these 21st century skills initially cost the school district nothing! “The installation of the Challenge Course was made possible through the Carol M. White PEP Grant that the district had received,” explained Tyler. “The climbing wall and indoor elements were installed with the first grant. The outside challenge course was installed with the second grant. In all there are 10 low team/trust building elements and 12 high challenge elements.”
Unfortunately, due to staffing cuts to reduce the school budget, adventure programming may no longer be offered at MVHS. “It has been a pleasure over the last 10 years to grow our physical education program to motivate students to participate,” explained Matt Gilbert, “but we may not be able to sustain the staffing to keep it going.”