Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Connecticut Children's Burn Camp

It is always refreshing to receive notes from clients informing us of the impact that Adventure Education has had in their lives. The following quotes were sent from the Connecticut Children’s Burn Camp, a longtime client of Project Adventure. The camp uses its Challenge Course to help campers achieve unique experiences.

“… I wanted to give you a shout out after camp. We had a fantastic week, servicing 84 campers from all over the world. It was an incredible experience and I feel blessed that we (the ropes staff) can touch young burn survivors’ lives thru the ropes course experience.

… Your refresher was a great boost for us all and gave the staff confidence to handle such a large number of participants…”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Massachusetts Accident Reporting Procedure

Recently the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Safety released a new procedure for accident reporting.  If you are currently operating a Challenge Course in the state of Massachusetts we highly recommend that you view this update from the MA DOPS.  Click here for more information

Monday, June 11, 2012

Project Adventure Video Contest!

We are excited to announce our first video contest!  This contest is a chance for everyone to share how you incorporate adventure education in your life!  Winner receives a FREE workshop!

This opportunity is open to organizations, schools or individuals who are actively involved in some form of Adventure Education. Video themes must incorporate some aspect of Adventure Education for qualification. Examples of adventure education are:
  • Adventure curriculum in the classroom
  • Challenge Course experiences
  • Adventure games and initiatives
  • Adventure Education impact

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Disease, Community & Adventure

by Jean Walsh

If there are two things I know well they are adventure and Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). I worked for Project Adventure for about 15 years and I have FA. I was diagnosed with FA about 30 years ago. Do I know all there is to know about either? Not by a long shot, but I am a veteran of both. On a sunny, but cool, day in April a group of 25 of us, some with FA and some of our able-bodied loved ones, had an adventure experience at Moraine Farm. I knew it would be good – that is why I organized it. I didn’t know it would be great.
photo credit: Woody Barr

Before I tell you how it was great, let me tell you a little about FA. FA is a genetic disorder that impairs multiple systems. Its typical onset is in early adolescence. It is first noticed as poor balance and coordination. I used to ride horses. I began at age six. So how could it be that at sixteen, keeping my head up and shoulders back, something so innate, began to be something I had to really concentrate on to make happen? That is just the beginning. FA is degenerative. It gets worse and worse. If you’re lucky, it gets worse slowly. This is true for me. I am not lucky to have FA, obviously. I am lucky that the progression is slow and I am not experiencing some of the symptoms my younger friends with FA are. If you know me, you know that I used to walk and now I use a manual wheelchair. I have had more people ask me if I am drunk as I slur my speech more than I choose to remember, but I can still be understood. I could chronicle a lot more, but I am sure you get it. What people who know me may not know is that FA is far more than a problem with balance, coordination and speech. It causes: diabetes; deafness; blindness and scoliosis so that severe steel rods need to be surgically implanted to prevent the impairment of vital organs. Finally, people with FA often die of heart disease. There is no treatment. There is no cure.

I am a late comer to what people with FA and their loved ones call FAmily. Once I did become active in the FAmily, I was welcome with open arms and felt immediately at home. But I have to admit that the little cynical voice in my head whispered: “FAmily, really?” I think that cynical little voice has not been in my way as I’ve met my new friends. I know that cynical voice didn’t grow out of anything my new friends did. It was there. I am working on losing it. After our adventure experience I say: “ FAmily, true that!”

Our experience was masterfully led (as I expected) by Bill Cuff, Tim Churchard, Nate Folan and my brother-in-law Yew Cheong Tham. One of our first initiatives was Star Wars or Mergers. I zipped my lips as the familiar rope circles were laid on the lawn. As Tim sent us on to our first round, people started applying what I have typically seen as the solution right away. I found this pretty amazing, because, having witnessed this initiative a lot, a group of 25 taking up to and over 45 minutes to come to a solution for the diminishing resources of Star Wars while following the rules seems typical. Maybe people with diminished physical resources intuitively think outside the box for how to accomplish things physically because we are always solving problems of that nature? I don’t know. It was cool to witness though. Couldn’t help but feel proud of my FAmily.
photo credit: Woody Barr

Another thing that happened right out of the box was as we made our switches and our resources diminished, it wasn’t each person to his or herself ensuring his or her own access to a circle. (This, in my experience, is typically a race for the remaining circles. I have often seen facilitators limit participant speed so collisions and bodily injury don’t happen.) We came together as a team figuring out how everyone could best accomplish the task. It definitely was not each person for his or her self or, even, subgroups (like some of the nuclear families that were there) working within their subgroup to make sure their own were taken care of. There was a palpable sense of doing it together. FAmily.
photo credit: Woody Barr

I know this is true for me. I am a capable person. I usually know what I want to do and how I want to do it. So I really hate it when someone grabs my wheelchair and takes me somewhere without asking me first. This happens a lot. I am not a baby in a carriage. I am a grown #$% woman. I don’t know that every person with FA there that day hates this like I do. I do know I didn’t see it happening. I saw communication even within the urgency of getting a circle. Communication. Respect. FAmily.

As I said earlier, FA causes people with it to slur their words and have great difficulty speaking. One of my friends there that day has a problem with this and works hard with a speech therapist to lessen his impairment to communication. So, as Bill led us into Zoom with its dependence on verbal communication, I was worried for him. (I know, I know, he is a grown #$% man. I need to give him the same respect I ask for. I know he is capable.) I did see people asking him what he wanted to say about his picture/piece of information and saying it more loudly than he is able. I didn’t see anyone looking at his picture and taking over for him. He was trusted to share what he needed to and ask for the help he needed. Trust. FAmily.

At the end of the day, we moved on the high elements. Watching everyone participate was such a high for me. Because PA made a video of one of our group doing the Swing Shot, I get to re-live the experience whenever I need a lift, Check it out!! Two members of our group on the high elements stood out for me in particular, but really all of us were amazing. One participant who is an adolescent as well as a fairly new diagnosis is very shy. I have known her for a couple of years and haven’t really talked to her. (Not that I didn’t want to. I have been trying to give her space from my more advanced FA self. I wanted to talk to her when she was ready.) First of all, she started opening up even before the high elements. But to see her grin as she did the Swing Shot was yet another amazing moment. Nate made everyone doing the Swing Shot feel physically and emotionally safe in his calm matter-of-fact way. Some of us remained at the Swing Shot while another group went to the Flying Squirrel. A friend of mine who is a tough fighter against some of the more serious FA symptoms did the Flying Squirrel. I don’t know how Yew Cheong did it, but he managed to make my friend and his very cautious mom feel safe. I didn’t see it, but I did see pictures of his ear-to-ear smile (thanks Woody Barr). Even more precious to me, he told me that he loved it.  Finally it was chilly up there on the Challenge Course. Because people were starting to get uncomfortable, we ended before some of the able-bodied participants who wanted to were able to do the Swing Shot. No one complained. Everyone was just genuinely happy to have played a role in helping those of us with FA participate. Graciousness. Kindness. Joy. FAmily.
photo credit: Woody Barr
photo credit: Woody Barr
I could really go on about our amazing community/FAmily and how that day allowed me to truly experience it. My key take away is that while I am surely unlucky to have FA, I am surely lucky to have these people in my life. While FA needs to go away (the sooner the better!), our FAmily has created a community a million times more powerful than FA.

Find out more about Friedreich’s Ataxia and, if you like, donate to help us end it at the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance’s (FARA) website,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bamboo Resilience

Bamboo Resilience
A Project Adventure Trauma Relief Program for Japanese Teachers & Students

One year ago, on March 11, 2011, Japan was devastated by a major tsunami and the country is still reeling from the effects and aftermath. Not only is there still massive physical damage, but the emotional impacts on adults and children in the affected regions are considerable. We know that children are an especially vulnerable population after natural disasters.  They need timely assistance in recovery so that they and their communities can work towards building a positive future.
Last November, Project Adventure Senior Trainer and Gloucester High School Teacher Jim Schoel travelled to the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan which was significantly impacted by the tsunami; he spent two days leading a workshop on Bamboo Resiliency for 22 Japanese teachers from the region including 3 PA Japan trainers. The goals for workshop participants were to develop
  • An understanding of resiliency as it relates to traumatic events (Bamboo Resiliency)
  • A deeper understanding of the Full Value Contract and how it can be used with trauma sufferers
  • An understanding of how to facilitate students’ healing without them reliving their trauma
  • A caring network by giving teachers a space in which to share their experiences teaching young people affected by trauma and giving opportunities to identify what future work is needed
Jim knows that Adventure programming is an excellent approach to addressing the needs of traumatized children and adults. For Tsunami victims, PA focuses on the concept of resiliency, or the ability to learn from and to incorporate the skills and strengths gained by surviving and recovering from trauma. Resiliency is a learned skill and greatly aids and improves recovery from traumatic events. This Bamboo Resiliency Trauma Relief Program is based on PA’s active learning methods and features an engaging group development process centered on the Full Value Contract

Bamboo Resilience Full Value Contract
Be Here
Creating commitment and connection so that healing relationships can form
Be Safe
Creating a safe environment to provide hope
Set Goals
Recognizing resiliency survival skills and accomplishment of tasks
Be Honest
Remember and mourn
Let Go & Move On
Honor the memories of friends and loved ones through resiliency which involves accepting powerlessness, cultivating group hardiness and practicing interdependence
Care for Self & Others
Group members build community through self-care, recognition of interdependence, empathic engagement and caring for others
This two-day Bamboo Resiliency pilot workshop was extremely successful and therapeutic for the participating teachers who are now using what they learned in their work with affected students. The teachers were also very excited that this program model builds community and a safe supportive environment for students to develop their resiliency skills. Given the promise of this program and the enormous need for resiliency around the globe, PA wants to expand this program to work with hundreds of thousands of students and teachers. Over the next several months, PA plans to develop a train-the-trainer as well as a direct service model for Japanese teachers in Bamboo Resiliency, along with associated educational materials in both Japanese and English. This will be a collaborative effort with Project Adventure Japan, who has already trained more than 5,000 teachers in PA methods over the last 20 years.
If you are interested in learning more about our initiatives, please contact us, check out our website or leave your comments below!
*Bamboo trees are known for their flexibility, bowing to even the strongest winds, but still standing

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Project Adventure and ACCT Association for Challenge Course Technology

will hold its 22nd annual conference in Boston this year – February 9-12 at Westin Boston Waterfront in Boston, MA – 607 attendees are expected.

The proximity of the conference has gotten us thinking about PA’s long and interesting history with ACCT.  In a recent interview, Bob Ryan, PA’s Director of Safety and RiskManagement , recalled a Ropes Course Builders Symposium in 1988 when members began discussing the need for an association. The first actual association meeting was held at an AEE conference at Smuggler’s Notch in the fall of 1993. There were 35 attendees. The founding members included:  Adventure Experiences, Cradle Rock, Inner Quest, Project Adventure and Signature Research.

The Association was formed to develop challenge course installation standards. Bob recalled a moment when the original members were trying to come up with a name for the organization. When Association for Challenge Course Technology was suggested, Rich Klajnscek, a PA builder at that time, jumped out of his seat and said, “Then the acronym would be ACCT!!” The name was finalized in that moment.

Project Adventure has been represented on the ACCT board and on a variety of committees since the beginning. Randy Smith of Inner Quest served as the first board president;  DickProuty of PA as the first vice president. Bob Ryan has served on the board for approximately 10 years.

PA is honored to support and participate with this essential and progressive organization.

Click here to join our Facebook discussion on ACCT!