Friday, November 7, 2008

Will Smith, Oprah and Adventure

I watched the Oprah show in awe yesterday as Will Smith discussed turning 40 and what that means for transforming his life to a place of service for others. What does this have to do with adventure teaching and counseling?

Will talked about the power of groups. How groups, when performing well, can actually manage the emotional and physical safety of their community (he was using his family dynamics as an example and he and his wife's parenting philosophy). He talked about how the power of being inside the group or pushed out of the group can be a powerful tool. He was very vague, but passionate...and had clearly thought a lot about this concept of the group...and the ability to harness the power of it for good. Of course, the advertising breaks kept interrupting his thought process and momentum (he even voiced frustration when the "going to commercial music" started saying "No, not again").

He reminded me so much of so many people who experience Project Adventure for the first time. When they begin to really understand that the Full Value Contract is more than rules. That is a living, breathing agreement for guiding and transforming the community. When they experience "Challenge by Choice"(c) and see that it is not a tool for opting out, but actually a tool for empowerment. For taking risks in a safe and supported environment. When they experience communication, reflection and feedback through the "Adventure Group Process" - and for the first time in their lives understand the difference between open, honest and valuing communication and criticism.

What Will Smith was describing was the power of the Project Adventure's methodology. He was talking about what PA has been seeing and experiencing for over 37 years as a non-profit organization.

Will, if you are looking to put a name to what you are describing, it is called "adventure education". If you are looking to learn more about how a non-profit, comprised of believers, educators, counselors, administrators and researchers have been developing curriculum, training professionals, working with youth on leadership, and striving to transform the life's of vulnerable and at-risk youth through the use of this methodology - please contact us. ( or 805-556-0895.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Staff Development Feedback - Wouldn't you like to hear these comments?

Any school administrator will tell you that it is no easy task to strike a balance when providing professional development for staff. Finding a program that your faculty sees as a good use of thier time, is meaningful and relevant and will actually help them grow as not easy.

Recently, Senior PA Consultant Bart Crawford conducted a professional development session at the International School in Greenwich CT. Here is some feedback on the program:

" to be out of our comfort zones in non-threatening ways".
"Building relationships with respect and communication".
"Over the past few years we have been through a lot and we needed this opportunity to help us move forward".
"There were definitely activities today that I can use in my classes".
"It was helpful to reflect on who we are as learners".
"This workshop was more relevant and useful than previous 'group building' sessions".
"We need to have more experiences like this".
"I feel relaxed and stress free...and grateful for not having to sit all day".
"This was the most relaxing and fun staff development day I've had in 7 years".
"It was a pleasure to be in a workshop with a facilitator who has clear goals, is well prepared and leads the group comfortably".

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Learning in the Great Outdoors at Wilderness School in Daly City, CA

The San Mateo County's homepage featured an article in The Daily Journal on the field trip the South San Francisco-based Baden Continuation High School took to the Wilderness School's White Hawk Ropes Course on San Bruno Mountain.

As I read the article, I was taken with the uniqueness of this program run by the Wilderness School. You see, as part of this one semester program offered through Jefferson Union High School District, 10th through 12th graders can learn to be facilitators on the White Hawk Challenge course and work with students and groups from other schools and agencies.

Long time Project Adventure friend and experiential education advocate, Reno Taini, created The Wilderness School program by bringing the concept of project-based learning and wilderness education to life. The programs cornerstone is the concept of "learning", "doing", "reflecting" and then "internalizing" learning. In existence since 1967, the curriculum and outcomes of The Wilderness School are as relevant today as they were then.

To learn how your educators and counselors can bring components of a program similar to The Wilderness School to your school or agency, contact Project Adventure - the leading in advancing active learning since 1971.
Email or 805-556-0895.

What I have learned is that Project Adventure can be used in my future - a student's reflection

Hamilton Wenham High School is where PA began. And continues. This reflection, written by a student, is included on page 12 of the November 2008 - Hamilton Wenham Regional High School Syllabus.

"Project adventure has challenged me to put more trust in my
classmates and to deal with my large fear of heights. I find it difficult to
function any more than ten feet off the ground, so relying on others to
keep me from falling was not high on my agenda list. Project adventure
forced me into these circumstances and made me have to believe in my
own abilities and other people around me.

I learned that I can cooperate with other people well, when I give
up on being the leader, but do not put aside my own recommendations.
I must strike a balance between being bossy and holding back my own

To my classmates, I would like to be known as a good listener and
to appear in control of myself. I want my classmates to think of me as a
reliable and focused person who can try their best, even if my best is not
up to their standards. I influence that image by putting a lot of effort
into every initiative we do, so I do not slow them down, being seen as a
participator rather then a slacker.

What I have learned is that project adventure can be used in my
future. Cooperating with a group of people that I am not close with is a
social skill used in the workplace. Teams are often put together to
accomplish a goal together that they would not be able to accomplish by
themselves. Getting across the wire on the "lifeline" with others is not
far different than a meeting of employees balancing a company’s budget.
Both require a high level of participation and cooperation".

Monday, November 3, 2008

Santa Fe Mountain Center Receives AEE Award

Project Adventure congratulates Sky Gray and her great team at Santa Fe Mountain Center!

The Santa Fe Mountain Center (SFMC) has been selected as the Association for Experiential Education’s (AEE) organizational member of the year. According to a press release, Dr. Nina Roberts, assistant professor of Recreation, Tourism and Parks at San Francisco State University, wrote in here nomination letter: “They have touched the lives of thousands of people, young and old, giving many of their clients something to hope for during times of uncertainty and despair. Even the healthiest participants – across the program spectrum – credit SFMC for providing them with new ways of thinking and being in the world. The SFMC exemplified social justice and constantly strives for social change by Mountain Center will soon be celebrating 30-years as one of this nation’s premiere experiential education programs.”

To see the full press release go to

The leadership of Project Adventure is proud to have worked on several committees with the leadership of Santa Fe Mountain Center, and to have consulted on curriculum and training for the SFMC staff. Congratulations to Sky and team for all your hard work, dedication and commitment not only to experietial education and programming but to the community and people you serve!

Regards, your friends at PA.

Climbing Walls for Pennridge Middle School

From The Intelligencer - - Nov. 3, 2008

Students soon will be climbing the walls
By THERESA HEGEL The Intelligencer

Some kids dress up as Spider-Man for Halloween.
But Pennridge middle-schoolers will soon have the chance to become Spidey. Or at least to climb across a wall like the Web-slinging superhero.

The school board approved a $13,500 contract with Massachusetts-based nonprofit Project Adventure for design, installation and training on 40-foot-long climbing walls at the district's three middle schools. The district will spend less than $10,000 to buy the needed materials.
The walls are short, with students' feet never more than 3 feet above the ground, but students can climb across their length, not just their height.

Climbing walls and other challenge-course activities reflects a shift in physical education philosophy, said Arlene Zielinski, assistant superintendent for programs. She added that the walls should go up in December or January.

When she was in school, “Phys-ed was seen as ground for training future athletes and if you weren't among them you just kind of had to go along anyway,” she said.
Though Pennridge still features team sports as part of its gym curriculum, now there is also an emphasis on wellness and fitness.

“This creates more of a balance,” Zielinski said.

The climbing walls, which can improve coordination, problem solving and teamwork in addition to building upper body strength, tend to be motivational for students who aren't necessarily top athletes, she said.

“When success is defined as personal, individual progress ... all children can do that,” she said.

Pennridge received a federal grant to install climbing walls at its elementary schools several years ago and has had great success integrating them into the physical education program, Zielinski said.

There has also been some interest in purchasing a taller climbing wall for the high school, but Zielinski said such walls pose some problems* because they require harnesses and other gear and fewer students can use them at one time.

Project Adventure, a 37-year-old international organization, provides schools and other agencies with the tools to implement various experiential programs, according to its Web site.

Theresa Hegel can be reached at 215-538-6381 or

*research shows that with properly trained staff, inspection and maintenance by a qualified vendor, climbing elements that utilize harnesses, helmets and appropriate safety equipment actually result in less injuries than low challenge course elements. (PA comment)