High hopes for new High Ropes

By Rutul Patel
Published: March 2010

The Project Adventure High Ropes course, originally scheduled for construction three years ago, is projected to be built by July 1 and implemented in the Wellness curriculum the following school year. The course will consist of both indoor and outdoor equipment, which will be built in the Fieldhouse and around the Lacrosse turf field.

In 2007, the Newton Public School System was awarded a grant of $1 million for new technology and developments.

Part of this grant money was allotted for the construction of the High Ropes course, a combination of ropes and rock-climbing elements installed 20 to 40 feet above the ground.

The indoor and outdoor courses will consist of ten components each, including a new four station indoor rock climbing wall in the Fieldhouse.

According to the Wellness Department, the High Ropes course will be implemented in the curriculum as the main focus of a new elective course, Project Adventure 2.

Wellness teacher Todd Elwell believes that the elective will give students a new way to challenge themselves physically and mentally.

“This curriculum is based on understanding risk, Elwell said. “We want to stretch the kids’ comfort zones so that they can apply [the lessons learned] to life outside of school.

The prospective elective course will have Project Adventure 1 as a prerequisite, a course devoted to building trust and encouraging teamwork on low-element obstacles. Before participating in the high ropes courses, students will focus on the basics and practice in a less risky environment.

Setting a date for the installation of the High Ropes equipment was a problem as well.

“We had to coordinate the building of the High Elements course with the installation of the new turf. The construction timeline hindered us by a couple of months, Wellness teacher Alan Rotatori said.

Elwell explained that construction of the High Elements course could not begin before the installation of the turf fields was complete.

Since the fields were completed in winter, construction was put off until the summer, when the ground could easily be drilled for the 40 foot poles.

Over the course of three years, Elwell and Rotatori spent over 100 hours each acquiring proper training and certification to teach both the low and high elements courses.

Before encouraging students to conquer their fears, the two teachers had to step out of their own comfort zones. Both Elwell and Rotatori were hesitant at first to attempt the training course but soon came to enjoy the challenge.

Although a High Elements course may appear dangerous at first, it was proven to be significantly safer than most sports.

In a 20-year Project Adventure study, an average rate of 4.33 people was injured per every million hours spent on a High Ropes Course.

Injuries were defined as sprains, muscle pulls, and fractures, with none of the injuries resulting in serious disabilities.

Comparatively, basketball and soccer injury rates were 2650 and 4500 injuries, respectively, per million hours played.

“Anything is dangerous, but we are trying to get the kids to work past their fear of danger, Elwell said, in response to the risks involved. “We’re going through it together with them. It’s about collaboration, not dictation.

An important aspect of the class is the “challenge by choice curriculum style, in which students who feel uncomfortable with a particular exercise are not required to attempt it.

Junior Anastasia Lymar took Project Adventure during this first semester of this year and felt that the lessons learned in her class would prepare her well for Project Adventure 2.

“You are prepared by the lower elements, you learn spotting techniques [for your classmates' safety], and the teachers are also well trained, she said. “If you feel unsafe, you can choose not to participate.

Lymar believes that Project Adventure 2 will be a good break for students from the stressful South environment, and will provide students with a block where “they can just enjoy themselves.

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