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APR. 2, 2014

Reflections on Climbing

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Over the past two weekends, Semester 38 Outdoor Academy students have taken to the local French Broad River and local rock climbing hot spots Cedar Rock and Rumbling Bald to challenge themselves. Not only have these students come away with new outdoor skills, but more importantly, students work on living well together in the woods, communication with belayers and their boat partner, and trust amongst their peers.

The Outdoor Academy places a strong emphasis on community and living well together while on campus. Our Outdoor Programming really ties directly into this outcome as students have to rely on one another to paddle the boat straight, belay each other on the rock or help cook backcountry meals for the group. Not only are students working with others in the group, most of the time they are overcoming personal accomplishments as well. Our hope is that they remember these moments and can establish a transfer of learning to new situations, such as difficult times in life they can get through, working with co-workers and academics. They will gain the self-confidence needed to overcome future challenges.

After paddling and climbing weekends, students are asked to write a self-reflection paper about their experience. I believe an excerpt from a student’s rock climbing reflection paper provides some insight into why we paddle/climb as a school and the powerful experience these activities have on pour students.

“There was a moment when I took on a challenge that I wasn’t quite sure I was confident about, but I made the decision to step outside my comfort zone and participate in the rappelling. Getting to the top I found myself begin to question myself and the decision I had made to participate. Students began rappelling one at a time and all of a sudden it was just down to three of us waiting to go down. After several minutes of mental panic and lack of mental organization, I took some time to think about the situation. I realized I was surrounded by a group of supportive peers and by a loving, trained group of wilderness instructors. I pulled that thought into the front of my brain and decided to just go for it.

When I got to the bottom I felt this sense of self-satisfaction that I’d never really felt before.  It was a moment for me where I was truly proud at something I’d accomplished. The biggest thing I got out of this trip was not only the skills of climbing but to use fear as a way to push your self forward. Fear is scary, yes, but it allowed me to feel the sense that I was bettering myself by trying new things. It gave me a feeling of happiness and self-worth I haven’t felt before.”

Confronting fear and pushing your self through these challenges, this is simply one tenet of how outdoor programming impacts the lives of our students.  I challenge everyone to take on this challenge, just as our students do.

Lucas Newton
Outdoor Programs Coordinator