CHALLENGE BY CHOICE

09/01/2014
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
Ace Adventure Resort

Breaking down barriers and going outside your comfort zone are two obstacles that can be overcome mentally as well as physically. The ACE Adventure Resort in West Virginia offers an amazing amount of outdoor adventures from rafting and rock climbing to kayaking and team ropes courses that involve “peer support and accountability in decision making.” The fantastic thing about ACE’s plethora of activities is there is something for everyone — and for all ages.

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Recently a group of high school students traveled to the mountain state to embrace the hands-on approach and face their fears together. Consisting of almost 50 students and a handful of chaperones, the group split up. Some tried rock climbing, rafting, and horseback riding; others ventured off on mountain bikes and the team ropes course.

There are two ropes courses to experience, both utilizing teamwork and communication. The Low Ropes Course brings individuals together to accomplish a goal as a unit. Broken down into teams, the groups must help one another get through the wooded paths, involving blindfolds and compasses. The High Ropes Course, which teaches working as a team to help one individual, includes a 50-foot rope swing and time on the 65-foot “Alpine Tower.”

When it came time for the eager teens to begin the half-day course, their focus was as steady as their hands on the ropes. To start, as with any ACE adventure, there was a safety lesson as the guide emphasized how safety is a number one factor so there is little chance for injury in any activity. The ACE facilitator, who instructed the day’s activity, stressed five rules that began with safety for self and others and ended with a thumbs-up for fun! Respect, commitment, and teamwork were other factors that contributed to a great day for everyone.

To unify the students, a team building exercise was demonstrated through an exercise in piggy backing as they carried each other on their backs. One student asked, “What are the teams?” and his classmate replied, “We are all one team.” Building an identity within a group and acquiring autonomy are two characteristics emphasized in many outdoor activities at ACE.

Once this endeavor was complete or the time had expired to complete it, the group reformed to discuss roles. It was pointed out that a female student was chosen to be the leader of this task but not by choice. Her height was the determining factor. Being the tallest, she led her classmates through the challenge. In this exercise, the students quickly learned some people are natural leaders and others natural followers.

For the High Ropes Course, the lessons learned are somewhat different. Everyone has a designated duty and no job is more important than another. For example, to successfully execute the 50-foot rope swing requires a ladder crew, spotters, the actual swinger and approximately 10 people to pull the swinger high above the ground. Communication and teamwork play key roles in a triumphant swing.

Once on the enormous “Alpine Tower,” words of encouragement were shouted from below as several courageous teens raced to the top. There were screams of laughter throughout the challenge — each student discovering the satisfaction of accomplishment and personal growth.

“Push yourself outside of the comfort circle — it’s a little scary,” commented the instructor, “That’s your challenge by choice.” By putting the “field” in fieldtrip on ACE’s 1,500-acre playground, students of all ages can learn without walls.

For more information, visit www.AceRaft.com or call 800-787-3982.
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