On just the second day of school, the NBS Middle Schoolers (7th and 8th graders) spent the entire day on the Triple C Challenge Course, working on teamwork, individual challenges, communication, and cooperation.
“I like to do this trip early in the year to help the group learn more about each other and what it feels like to be a unified group,” says Middle School teacher Katrien Vance. “We count on each other all year long, in academic projects, plays, music groups, friendships, and classroom relationships. It’s important to feel like a team.”
The day began and ended with one of the hardest challenges on the course–the Hula Hoop Challenge. While this challenge looks easy, it is remarkably difficult. The group must lower a hula hoop which is resting on their outstretched fingers to the ground, without allowing anyone’s finger to lose contact with the hoop. The group was unable to conquer this one so early in the morning, learning in that failure some good lessons about communication.
The next six hours held more failures, and many successes. By tackling challenges while on the ground, balancing on wires, and hanging on tires, students were asked to use their creativity and cooperation in ways many had never used them before. By the end of the day, every single student had contributed a good idea, and all could feel part of the group’s success. Even the failures were helpful. “I was surprised at first that the facilitators let the kids fail,” said Katrien. “But then I realized how much trust in us that showed. The facilitators knew they didn’t need to baby the kids at all; they let them learn from their mistakes. And with each challenge, the kids became more and more successful.”
The middle of the day was filled with individual challenges, such as climbing the “Vertical Play Pen” and then taking the Zip Line across the course back down to the ground. Each student was able to set a personal goal, and the Triple C facilitators helped them meet that goal and encouraged them to go a step more, if they wanted to. Towards the end of the day, students had another individual challenge, as they climbed telephone poles to the “Cat” and “Eagle” high ropes challenges and then walked across a log or wire set about thirty feet in the air, supported only by a belayer and their classmates, cheering them on. Every student met or exceeded his or her own goal, and some went much farther than they had expected to at the beginning of the day.
By the end of the day, the students’ muscles were tired from climbing, spotting, and balancing, and their brains were tired from thinking past what the facilitator called “phantom rules” to try to solve problems creatively, but their relationships with each other were stronger than ever. Throughout the school year, Middle Schoolers will be able to think back to the moment when they thought they couldn’t do something and then were able to with the support of their classmates, or the moment when they got a great solution from a classmate by quieting down and listening carefully to each other, or the moment when they needed to work together silently and intensely to solve a challenge. On only the second day of school, they got to see who they could be when they were at their best, and now they know whom they can count on this year: each other.
Oh, and that Hula Hoop Challenge? At the end of the day, the team lowered the hoop successfully to the ground on their first try.