Newton South High School students use high-element challengecourse to build trust, relationships
Wicked Local Staff Photo by David Gordon
Newton South High School sophomores Ohad Levy-Or, left, and Sam Mansour attempt to cross the catwalk, a partof the school’s new challenge course. Adventure learning encourages students to work together and problem solve,even if they are 30 feet in the air.
By Laura Paine/Staff Writer
Wicked Local NewtonPosted Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:36 PM
Newton — First Newton South sophomore Sam Mansour had to climb the 30-foot telephonepole. Then he had to walk on the narrow catwalk and get past his classmate without fallingoff.“It’s pretty scary up here,” Mansour shouted as he asked his belay team, a group of hispeers, to tighten the slack.Mansour and Ohad Levy-Or were the first two students in the wellness class to problem-solve from 30 feet in the air how to successfully move around each other without tumbling tothe ground.“It’s scary when you get up there because you don’t realize how high it is until you areactually on the [catwalk],” Mansour said. “The hardest part is really crossing with the otherperson. You don’t have anywhere you can safely put your weight.”Alan Rotatori, the school’s wellness director, said the ropes course helps teach studentshow to cooperate, trust and problem solve one-on-one, as well as in group settings. Thesesteps are a part of the caring classroom model, which includes ground activities that teachstudents how to do all of those things while balancing on the catwalk with a classmate orstruggling on the pirate’s bridge.“Each time you go up the ladder, you incorporate the rung before it and hopefully, by theend, you have them in the challenge part really functioning at a high level so they can do allthose steps in a particular element or activity that may be difficult and emotionally draining,”Rotatori said.One of the main reasons the course was built at South is because it teaches valuable lifeskills that cannot be learned in the core curricula studies. Rotatori referenced an instance atthe Massachusetts Institute of Technology where graduates complained that, while theyreceived an excellent education, they didn’t have any social or networking skills.“They put Project Adventure, adventure education, as an avenue to learn social skills andnetworking skills,” Rotatori said. “It is a graduation requirement for MIT students. I think that’s cool. It’s one thing to be smart and have a base of knowledge in your studies, but howyou relate that to other people is probably more important in our society than anything else.Adventure education does that.”Before students make the climb, they learn the language of safe climbing and how to belay,or anchor, their classmate during the activity. Sophomore Zuzana Skvarkova said the trustactivities and training she did with her class really made a difference.“The first day I didn’t know half of the people [in class], but from this, you have to trustpeople, so you get a different connection with all your classmates,” Skvarkova said. “It’sdefinitely a valuable experience, and it makes wellness a lot more fun.”Skvarkova was one of the first to cross the pirate’s bridge, which is a series of crossedropes that sway and swing along with the person, or people, crossing it. She said she had totrust the person next to her and problem-solve with them. Even if Skvarkova fell, she said sheknew she was in good hands.“We did some trust falls in the beginning of class,” she said. “I knew they would have me if I fell. I recommend that everybody do it. This would be great for team bonding and sports.”