September 18, 2011

Learning by rope

Through the sky

I spent yesterday in the woods, getting high with my students. It’s a Small Green tradition.

Every fall, we take our first year students to a ropes course, where the “high” elements include climbing up into the trees and jumping off platforms, and the “low” elements include teamwork challenges. I love the adrenaline that shoots through my veins when I have to climb 50 feet up the side of a tree and dangle from a single rope. I am terrified of heights, which makes the high ropes course that much more fun.

During the teamwork challenges, I get to know my students. I see who likes to take charge, who is good at listening, and who is the most diplomatic. My favorite low ropes element this year was a big rope web hanging in the trees, about a foot above my head. For our challenge, we had to get every person up through openings in the ropes, but we could only use each opening once. To make it even more difficult, the facilitator blindfolded some of us.

When I’m doing the low ropes course, I just do whatever my students tell me. So when Long Island Accent told me I was to try for one of the highest openings, I stood still and let two students lift me up. Once I was high enough, I grabbed the hands of another student who guided me in. Another student grabbed the belt loops of my jeans to make sure I didn’t tumble down the large hole in the middle of the web. I flopped in awkwardly, like a fish in the bottom of a boat.

Once I was safely in, I quite liked the rope web. It was like a huge hammock that could hold 20 people at once. I enjoyed just hanging out with my students, cheering them on as they ascended one at a time.

That's a student in the top photo. Below is the low ropes element that they call the Eagle's Nest.
Low ropes with my students

7 comments:

Sherry said...

That looks like fun!

Phil said...

You must teach at a smaller school than Fireant? Fun way to engage your students.

jo(e) said...

Yes, I'm at the small college next door to the university where Fireant works.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I had to read your first sentence twice.

jo(e) said...

The guy who runs the retreat place always refers to the high ropse course as "getting high." It makes the students smile.

Kyla said...

What a cool tradition...I'm pretty sure I'd be too terrified to participate, though!

Sharon From the Creek said...

I am so glad you do it...I do not think I would be able to. My hero!
:)