More about the low ropes course

We are very fortunate to have one of the few low ropes courses inside the City of Austin! It is also known as a “challenge course,” because it challenges its participants to learn and experience more about themselves and each other. It includes a series of individual and group activities that are physical, mental and emotional, and which require a combination of teamwork skills and individual commitment.
The term “ropes course” also refers to the physical elements that consist of cables and ropes attached to the trees. We have ten elements set up on our course, which are described below. The original ropes courses were simply ropes in trees, but now we also have galvanized steel aircraft cables and drop-forged hardware set into a variety of configurations.

Challenge courses like ours are used to foster an experiential approach to learning. They are based on the idea that change and growth take place when people are active physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally, and involved in their learning rather than just being receivers of information. John Dewey, and others of the Progressive Movement, felt a time-honored and common-sense belief was being forgotten in modern education: that people learn most when they are actively involved in their learning and find the material relevant and attractive in some way. Experiential facilitators engage groups in activities that give participants opportunities to take ownership of their learning. They create situations that allow learners to actively explore and practice concepts they are learning and facilitate the practice of reflection on how these lessons relate to life situations. All of the activities are choice-based, which means that the participants can choose to participate in whatever way feels most comfortable to them, though often they experience new ways of being outside of their comfort zone, which helps to broaden their experiences and boost their confidence. The facilitator includes a fun, imaginative story with each element, which helps to immerse the participants in a world of adventure and challenge.

Just as is found in a Montessori classroom, the challenge course is a prepared environment, with its own set of rules and procedures. Participants need to have a “lesson,” and often complete “prerequisite” work on the ground before using the elements to better equip themselves and the group with the skills needed for the elements. Safety is of utmost importance, and we practice spotting as well as cable etiquette before using any of the elements. This compares to our Montessori lessons in Grace and Courtesy, which includes all the procedures that we need to have a smoothly running classroom. There is a certain language and flow that goes with using this outdoor environment that will help ensure that everyone is safe and has a fun experience together. 

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