Home-schoolers hit the outdoors for adventure education
Relying on simple tools such as ropes, harnesses and carabiners, the students are learning life skills including teamwork, patience and most of all, trust.
"You are so high up, and you really have to be able to trust the people that are helping you down below," said Marc Landry, 15, of Londonderry.
Landry, a freshman, is one of about 20 home-schooled children participating in a unique wilderness survival course incorporating rope climbing, rock climbing, hiking and more.
On Thursday, the students gathered at Roy Memorial Park in Litchfield where a semi-permanent challenge course has been installed by Element Adventures of Manchester.
There, the students were given specific instructions and then encouraged to climb as much of the obstacle course as possible, relying on communication, teammates, knowledge and experience.
"The outdoors is a great medium for teaching. These kids are developing real life skills and having a great time doing it," said Ryan Chasse, owner of Element Adventures.
Chasse has been working with the students for several months, presenting them with different adventures such as snowshoeing, learning wilderness first aid, building winter shelters and studying basic winter survival skills.
Students had the opportunity to climb intermediate or more advanced rope courses, which incorporated ladders, platforms, tires, poles, trees and a zip line.
For many of the students, this was not their first time attempting the challenging obstacle course, which takes a lot of prep work, according to Chasse.
"I didn't realize I was afraid of heights until I was actually up there," said Shannon McClure, 17, of Amherst. "It takes a lot of strength and balance, and it was definitely harder than I anticipated."
Even with the harness being used, McClure says it is a nerve-wracking sport.
Her mother, Dawn McClure, agreed, saying she was quite nervous the first time her children climbed the ropes.
"But this is one of the greatest advantages of home-schooling - we can seek our own opportunities and plan the curriculum accordingly.
"Last week, I could hardly get my son off the rocks to go home," she said.
Learning outside of the classroom is incredibly beneficial, explained Dan Kiestlinger of Element Adventures, adding the wilderness survival course is an ideal physical education segment that seems to be very thrilling for youngsters.
It also pushes students who think they might not be able to accomplish something as challenging as a ropes course 35 feet high, added Chasse.
"I have learned a lot of stuff that I didn't know before this class. The most challenging part, I think most people would agree, is conquering your fear of heights," said Zach Hennessey, 17, of Windham.
While it can be a bit frightening initially, Hennessey said the fears are eventually replaced with excitement once the training kicks in and the knowledge learned is applied appropriately.
"It has been awesome watching them trust each other and build their team skills. It is such a learning experience for them," added Dawn McClure.