High elements, high stakes

By Maarten Van-Genabeek
Published: September 2010

Next to the practice turf field at Newton South, a new High Elements course was installed as a part of a new initiative called Project Adventure.
In order to fund the new course, the Wellness department had to apply for a Carol A. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant, a special type of federal grant that is awarded for physical education expandment. “These [PEP] grants are very hard to receive, you have to apply for them very far in advance with all the pros and cons and just hope you get them, Elwell said.
With the addition of the new course, there has been a few concerns, but Elwell assures the South community that the course is completely safe. “We, [the Wellness staff], are certified instructors and have completed over 100 hours of certification and know exactly what we’re doing, he said.
However prepared the instructors may be, they realize that they will not be able to properly control a large class, therefore the school put a limit on enrollment in the course. “There is a maximum of 24 students allowed per class to make sure the supervisor is not overwhelmed, Elwell said.
But perhaps the most important part of safety for the course is the training that the students will receive to use the courses safely. Most of the year will be doing things on the ground building up to the final class of going on the course.
“Obviously something that is not safe on the ground will not be safe in the air. When we look to go on the course we make sure that everyone is ready, Elwell said. “[The students] have to prove their leadership, maturity, and trust of each other to be able to go on the big course.
Even with these precautions in place there always lies a safety issue due to the height of the course. In the rare circumstance of an accident, the school would be liable for the damages. “The new structure is pretty tall and scary; I just wouldn’t be able to get on it, senior Grant Henderson said.
Elwell acknowledges the risk, but maintains his opinion that the course offers more benefits than drawbacks.
“The original purpose of the course was to help turn around troubled youths and it had great success. Now imagine what it could do to help a community such as South where stress and competition replaces actual community, he said.
Apparently South is not the first to use the course to its advantage. “Many corporations and companies use these courses to help their CEOs and coworkers become closer and build better communities, Elwell said.
Project Adventure is a nonprofit organization based in Beverly, Massachusetts, whose goal, according to its website is “to provide leadership in the expansion of adventure-based experiential programming.
Project Adventure seeks to develop responsible individuals, productive organizations, and sustainable communities. Originally designed as a program to help troubled youths and steer them back on the right track by teaching them the values of community and leadership skills, they expanded their program to schools and companies who agreed their communities could use strengthening.
“Everyone needs community building, Wellness teacher Todd Elwell said. “The values that this project brings are something that everyone can benefit from.
The initiative at South is being led by Amy Aranski, one of the Wellness teachers, in coalition with the Wellness department in order to help community building. It is also designed to promote self-confidence, community building, leadership, and responsibility.
The goal is to increase Wellness funding and the participation of students in the Wellness program in the South community.The new High Elements course will be open for juniors and seniors this year and is already generating hype among students who are excited to get on the course.
“I can’t wait to climb it cause the wellness department has been talking about it for so long and it seems so fun, senior Jenny Epstein said.

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