Climbing Beyond Recreational Use

Over the past 10 years at Central Michigan University, the 10,000-square-foot Adventure Center in the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration Department has seen a popularity boom and healthy revenue stream, particularly related to the rock-climbing gym. However, the center also has experienced the ever-so-common “yo-yo” effect as the public’s interest in paying to climb the wall shifts. A handful of “regulars” keeps the doors open, but how to keep people coming back? The answer to this question was addressed, adding elements that changed the common rock gym into an impressive experiential learning center.

First-Year Experience

In a class known as the First-Year Experience (FYE), students are exposed to the rock-climbing wall in the following ways:

1. Instructors may take an entire class to experience a set of “team-building” and “problem-solving” activities.

2. Students are invited to attend special FYE-sponsored adventure activity nights for small groups or individuals as an option for completing an out-of-class assignment

3. Students may attend open-campus recreation nights on their own.

Climbing is used as a “from-here-to-there” activity, where climbers are in one place and challenge themselves to move to another. The climbing wall is front-loaded to represent the “journey” through the freshman year of college. A front-load is simply a suggestion or metaphor given to climbers to think about the connection between the activities in which they are participating and what is going on in their lives. Specifically, the bottom of the wall represents where they stand in the first eight weeks of college, and the top of the wall represents how they will finish freshman year. Some sample processing questions follow:

• What obstacles will you face during freshman year?

• What will it take to be successful (during the climb)?

• If unsuccessful, what were your struggles (during the climb)?

• How can these struggles compare to the struggles you will face this year?

• What was it like holding the belay line (during the climb)?

• For whom do you hold the belay line (in everyday life)? What will happen if you let go?

Students’ reflections suggest that the two primary FYE goals–promoting engagement and empowering students–are being effectively addressed through these climbing activities.

As Richard Kraft notes, “Adventure educators have begun to learn that the insights learned from adventure programs and other experiential learning environments have great potential for use in the mainstream of our educational settings, whether in schools and colleges, in therapeutic programs, or in the worlds of business and industry” (Miles & Priest, 1990). Other outcomes from adventure experiences include an improved self-concept, enhanced leadership skills, increased logical reasoning skills, enhanced cooperation, more effective communication skills, increased sharing and decision-making skills, new ways to solve conflict and improved problem-solving (Gass & Priest, 2005). The benefits of experiential education for a more substantial development of self appear to be significant.

Adventure activities, combined with other experiential and traditional methods of education, give participants better opportunities to develop the skills they need to succeed in life.

Although the program in this example is specific to freshmen in college, it also can be used for any students who will be transitioning to a new school (i.e., from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school).

Team Climb And Team Belay

Page 1 of 3 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. TRUEBLUE Releases Free Training Program
  2. Get A Grip On Climbing Walls
  3. Circuit Training For Rock Climbers
  4. Soar To New Heights
  5. Climbing & Adventure Resources
  • Columns
  • Departments