AFTON – Swinging across a chasm on a Tarzan-like vine, walking a tight rope and crossing a swinging bridge strung high in the treetops sound like feats for adventurers and stunt men. Yet it was sixth, seventh and eighth graders, not professionals, who faced these challenges last week as Afton students took to the ropes course during Middle School retreats.
The school’s 134 middle school students kicked off the new school year by participating in a retreat program coordinated by Guidance Counselor Deborah Samuel.
“Our emphasis for this year is team building, friendship and trust,” said Samuel. According to the middle school counselor, the end goal of the program was to encourage a positive school climate. Each grade level had its own day-long outdoor retreat.
The morning session started with students being assigned “initiatives,” where they were challenged to solve a problem as a team. According to Samuel, these activities were designed to get the children listening, planning and positively supporting one another. They would need these skills when they progressed to higher ground (and higher altitudes), where Samuel said it was important to have the students’ undivided attention.
By mid-morning, students moved to the low ropes course where they planned and strategized in order to meet the unique challenges posed by different “elements.” Each of these activities stretched the students both mentally and physically; working together was the only way to be successful.
In small groups they tackled a cable tightrope called the Mohawk Walk, swung across a gulch in the Nitro Crossing and learned to lean on one another in the Partner Triangle.