Friday, May 30, 2008

Year round adventure with Seabrook Middle School

Four years ago, Seabrook Middle School installed a low elements course in the woods on school grounds. Our challenge was to incorporate an adventure curriculum into the traditional curriculum offered in the physical education program. We began by introducing Full Value Contracts for students to identify and own behavior as responsible classmates. We post these contracts with names and handprints on the wall of the gym. Sometimes they are used as reminders during the school year.

We spend 4 weeks in the woods every fall working on cooperative challenges like the TP Shuffle, Whale Watch, Mohawk Walk, Nitro Crossing, and visiting island countries using the Nitro Crossing set up, or playing a strange game of basketball with rubber chickens, lizards, swing ropes and buckets. We ladder our curriculum by offering different challenges for different grade levels on the same elements. In this way, we are able to introduce elements and keep them fresh at the same time. We alternate our curriculum in the fall with lifetime sports like golf and field games like flag football. When weather sends us indoors we play cooperative games like Mat Ball and Castle Ball and participate in cooperative challenges such as the Human Knot or use Stepping Stones.

Our winter curriculum focuses on fitness using lifetime activities and stations, a traverse wall, and indoor game units like Table Tennis, Volleyball, and Basketball.

By the time spring rolls around, students (and PE teachers) are anxious to get outdoors again and play field games or head to the woods. We have found that students come back to the woods with a desire and earnestness to be successful in the challenges. The MultiVine, Wild Woosey, Tire Swing and Spider’s Web are big hits in the spring. Students are ready and willing to take on the responsibility of keeping their classmates safe and attaining a group goal. There are always struggles with middle school students: maturity and responsibility. But we see the excitement and pleasure that challenges bring to most students. The opportunity to guide students in appropriate ways to be leaders keeps us coming back to the elements year after year.


Cindy Shoer is a Middle School PE teacher at Seabrook Middle School in Seabrook NH. Cindy has presented on the use of the core concepts of PA and alignment with standards for PE at PA's Practitioner's Seminars.

Two Days of Adventure by Michelle Batz, Ph.D.

Two Days of Adventure
By Michele Batz, Ph.D.

During the years that I have taught physical education in Wisconsin and Illinois, I have kept up with the trends – what's hot and how to keep students engaged in their classes.

Last winter through a grant program, Beach Park School District 3 gave me the opportunity to attend a two-day Project Adventure workshop at our school. When I read the introduction to the workshop, I was hooked.

As I entered our library and saw the array of equipment, my brain waves went into tilt mode; I knew I was in for an adventure. The instructors started off with a bang and quickly had us moving to the beat. All barriers were broken. It was so much fun, I felt like a little kid again. Having this carefree attitude makes me a better teacher. I learned how to bring classes together as a community, team building and thinking outside the box. I loved it!

Project Adventure, with its games, activities, and presentations, inspired me. I am thinking of enrolling in the master's program for adventure education or wellness. This program will have you and your students thinking outside the box, and your brain waves will never be the same. Everyone will be crying for more!

Michelle Batz is an author and educator living and working in the Chicago area.

Batz was a participant in Portable Adventure workshop which was customized to meet the specific goals and objectives of the funding and the school district. This session was facilitated by Amy Kohut and Topaz Terry - two long-term PA facilitators. To learn how to bring this workshop to your site, email PA at

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Washington Township NJ Students Participate in PA Fitness Achievement Day

CA freshmen must now pass 5 out of 6 fitness tests

California public school students, like many across the country, have always been tested for fitness. However, starting this spring, California freshman must pass five out of six fitness tests or continue taking Physical Education classes until they do.

For the tests, in the areas of aerobic capacity, body fat measurements, abdominal strength and endurance, trunk strength and flexibility, upper body strength and endurance, and overall flexibility, students can select from a range of options.

If they fail the tests, students must take sophmore physical education and then re-test. Continued failure means continued physical ed classes and continued testing. The results do not impact their ability to graduate.

Under California Education Code, students are required to be enrolled in 4 years of physical education, but are only required to pass 2 years of physical education to graduate.

Of course, many students, who enjoy fitness will easily be successful in this testing. And some students will work really hard to pass and avoid additional years of physical ed. And then some students will struggle, fail, struggle, fail and continue the cycle that has gotten them to their unfit levels.

Under Keith Johannes, former President of California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a committee is exploring including social and emotional learning components into the fitness testing prep classes. This will impact students' decisions and commitment to being successful and to select and enjoy life-long health-related fitness...instead of being focused on avoiding additional years of physical education.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Earn a Master's of Education and Specialize in Experiential and Adventure Ed

"The Project Adventure/Plymouth State University Masters Degree program has been the best educational experience that I've had. Practical, fun, user friendly, engaging, thought provoking, and exciting! I can't think of a better way to go for your post graduate work". Chip Candy, NASPE TOY 1995

Since 2003, Project Adventure and Plymouth State University have partnered to offer students the opportunity to earn a self-designed master's degree in adventure learning. The 34-credit self-designed Master of Education degree in Elementary, Secondary or K-12 Education with a focus in Adventure Learning allows students to complete three core master's courses and a practicum through PSU. The remaining credit requirements can be fulfilled by attending Project Adventure workshops and completing independent study projects.

Required Courses
Master's Core Component - 9 credits taken through PSU. The core courses can be taken online or transferred from an accredited institution.

Specialization Component - 22 credits (2-4 credits per Project Adventure workshop)
Capstone Experience - 3 credits (Practicum or Thesis approved by PSU)
Graduate credit for Project Adventure courses is available for $120 per credit, plus a $25 registration fee.
Project Adventure tuition, room and board fees are additional.

Students must apply for admission to the Master's program through Plymouth State University's College of Graduate Studies. For more information, contact Plymouth State University at or 800-367-4723.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lessons from Social Networking for Behavioral Change

Rob Stein of the discusses how the impact of traditional social networking maybe underestimated when seeking behavioral change at epidemic levels. He sites the success that social networking had in decreasing the number of smokers. Citing a study released last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, Stein talks about the numbers of people who quit smoking when others in their social network quit. According to the study, they were influenced even by people they did not know directly but were connected to through friends, family and co-workers.

He goes on to discuss the possibility of harnessing the social network influence to decrease obesity, dangerous sexual behaviors and/or crime.

Is this so different than what we know about the power of adventure and the Adventure Group Process? By their very nature, the foundational concepts of Project Adventure (Full Value Contract, Challenge by Choice, Experiential Learning Cycle and Goal Setting) create the ultimate social network including an emotionally and physically safe environment for testing out and trying on new behaviors and ways of being.

Although the study doesn't go specifically into why smoking decreases more dramatically in a social network than when individuals attempt to quit in is stressed that it could be based on changes in the social norms of the group.

In PA's residential and day treatment programs run and managed in Covington GA under PA Kids leader Cindy Simpson, Behavior Management through Adventure is the model utilized to empower children and youth to create the social norms for their group, class and residence. These norms follow the Full Value Contract (Be Here, Be Honest, Care for Self and Others, Set Goals, Let Go and Move On) and become tools for discussing behaviors, behavioral change and positive and negative consequences for operating within and outside of the norms.

As one young woman in the Challenge program at PA Kids told me, "I tell the new kids who come here....Yeah when I first came I thought all this group stuff was stupid. Then before I knew it, I was using the Full Value Contract, calling 'Group' and behaving better. So I tell them, all you have to do is fake it til you make it. And you'll be behaving better too".

Stein also warns that as happened in the smoking changes, as the social norms change, those who don't quit smoking become isolated, stigmatized and isolated. And states that this could happen if the social network theory is applied to fighting obesity. Those who are unable to lose weight or change behaviors will become isolated and disenfranchised in society.

This would be a good place to incorporate the norm of "Caring for self and others".

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sick Herd - Health and Academic Achievement

Monica Martinez of the San Francisco Chronicle explores the childhood obesity, chronic illness and the impact on attendance and academic achievement.

Siting statistics such as how in 2003, in the US, children between the ages of 5-17 missed more than 12.8 million days of school!

Matinez goes on to discuss new ideas which I had the benefit of hearing discussed at the Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education and Recreation annual meeting including the inclusion of activity in academic classrooms and the training of teachers to use tools for physical activity.

Project Adventure has been very engaged in the obesity crisis and implementing programs to support long-term behavioral change in children and youth who at risk of long-term chronic health issues. Tuba City, Arizona - a Navajo Nation community, inconjunction with Navajo Area Indian Health Service, contacted Project Adventure in 2003 to begin an implementation to mitigate the impact of obesity and Juvenile Diabetes on educational engagement and achievement. Under the direction of Dr. Katie Kilty, then Senior PA trainer, Creating Healthy Habits was born.

Results of a questionnaire administrated to student participants show the positive impact of Creating Healthy Habits:

On a scale of 1 to 4 (with 4 being excellent and 1 being poor), the means on the following questions were:
Please note the overall quality of the ‘adventure ed’ classroom sessions 3.87
How useful did you find the sessions for learning health? 3.48
How would you rate class participation in the sessions? 3.13

On a scale of 1 to 4 (with 4 being a lot and 1 none) the means on the following questions were:
Have the ‘adventure ed’ days made a difference in how you feel or think about your own
personal health? 3.13
Have you made any changes in the way you eat or exercise? 2.50
Have you learned new ways to express you emotions or feelings? 2.78

Sample answers to:
Examples of new emotional expressions
“To respect one another to be honest and friendly”
“I don’t yell as much, I explain things more clearly”
“Writing it down on paper, telling someone I trust”
“When someone said that I was gross and ugly, I told myself that he needs to try adventure ed and learn to respect others.”
What was most valuable about the sessions for you personally?
“Well, to treat others the way you want to be treated”
“Working in a group”
“It made me communicate with people. I felt confident”
“Trying to complete the activities. Teamwork to achieve the event.”
What was least valuable about the sessions for you personally?
“When we would write out things on the big butcher paper.”
“When everyone did not participate.”
“Can’t say it was really cool.”
“Talking about my problems”
Did you learn skills in these sessions that are important in your personal life? yes 21, no 1
If you answered “Yes”, have you already used some of these skills? yes 15, 7 no
Would you recommend this class to your friends? yes 21, no 0.

Now available as a package including training, lesson plans and a pack of props and tools, Healthy Habits is implemented in schools, agencies and community based programs to support children and youth to gain efficacy in decision making, choices and developing habits that lead to long term mentally and physically healthy lives.

Designed as a middle school program, Creating Healthy Habits has been successfully adapted at Children's Home RTF outside of Binghamton NY as a resource for residential childcare workers to implement with children and youth in residential treatment. Director Karen Wright credits Creating Healthy Habits with helping childcare workers have tools that focus and engage residents on developing new skills for long-term success.

The program has also been adapted for elementary school age and high school age children and youth and implemented in camp and out-of-school time programs.