Teamwork and trust must be taught; they are not innate skills or simply acquired. However, sophomores at Bethlehem Central High School are getting a jump on these life lessons and climbing to the top of the class with a newfound sense of accomplishment and camaraderie in their Adventure Education.
The 20-week course, given to all sophomores in the district, teaches goal-setting, problem-solving, team-building and communication in a setting that fosters personal challenge and group interaction.
A less intensive program is offered at the sixth-grade level as well, but in high school, students are required to keep a journal, set goals, participate in discussions and write a three-to-five-page essay about the experience.
The students start off interacting with each other like they would in an ordinary physical education class, according to Fred Powers, director of athletics. But by the end of the course, students form a tight-knit group of friends, and most importantly a team.
As you start this, there are set stages that students will go through. It gets pretty heated as they start the problem solving," Powers said. "We want them to push out of their comfort zone. This really is a laboratory to real-life experience."
The students' Adventure Education starts inside for the first 10 weeks of the semester before they move outside to a type of obstacle course set up in the woods behind the high school.
The actual curriculum consists of goal-setting, cognitive problem-solving, low-activity problems, competitive and noncompetitive activities, as well as personal challenges that allow the students to push themselves in perceived risk environments such as rock wall climbing, falls and swinging through the air on ropes.
"Inside, they're working on team building and trust building," Powers said. "And then making that connection to the real world."
Thanks to a donation from the Bethlehem Class of 1965, students are getting a head start on the outdoor segment of the program. The Class of '65 donated a rock-climbing wall to the district, and it has been integrated into the Adventure Education curriculum.