March 2014 Archives

If you've been teaching or working with people long enough, you can relate all to well to the challenge of how to get things happening. Too often we put all our attention on the person we believe to be the natural leader given our text book definition.

Or perhaps you are perplexed one day when you hear one day about a former student who was never the first person to take a risk or to lead, but always seemed to be the follower and they ends up being an amazing, unexpected leader! And you wonder, "How did I miss seeing that when I had them in my program?"

Derek Sivers challenges us to look at leadership and followership in a whole new light! A must see for shifting your perspective!

And I bet you can't help but smile while watching! Enjoy!

Circle. Table. Door.

It has been a while since we shared a new print and play activity. Here is a great conflict resolution activity shared with us by Brooklyn Raney. We have used this one a bunch of times and it is fascinating to watch a group process through the seemingly conflicting instructions. Give it a try and let us know what you think.


Recently, on a few public forums and listservs, The Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA) has made some statements regarding the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval of their standards. While it is true that the PRCA standards were recently approved by ANSI, it is not true that it will make the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) standards obsolete or change anything about the challenge course market as we currently know it.

The fact that PRCA has had their standards approved by ANSI first has no bearing on what you need to do with your course. The ACCT standards will soon follow; the ANSI approval process of the 9th edition of internationally recognized ACCT standards nears completion. If you have a relationship with any ACCT vendor for the maintenance, inspection and training of your course, rest assured they will continue to adhere to the most widely used and internationally accepted standard for the challenge course industry.

It is important to know that ANSI does not restrict any industry to a single standard; it believes that the marketplace will decide which standards are most influential. It is always expected that standards will compete, allowing the marketplace to determine which standards best meet its needs. We need only to look at the current market acceptance of these two organizations' standards as any indication of which standard will prevail. ACCT has shared with its membership a Q&A with their ANSI consultant, Attorney Dan Bart, detailing how the ANSI process works, which emphasizes this concept. (Attached ACCT-ANSI FAQ.pdf )

It should also be noted that in the handful of states that have embarked on regulating the challenge course industry, including California, Colorado, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Virginia, most have named ACCT standards by name in statute or regulation, and therefore courses must comply with those ACCT standards.
We believe that the PRCA's communication is very misleading and alarmist. Please trust that we have your best interests in mind. We choose to stand behind the ACCT standards not only because they continue to be the most widely recognized standard for the challenge course industry, but that they are the better standard for the industry. Time will prove this to be true.

Jim Grout
Executive Director
High 5 Adventure Learning Center

In 2011, bi-partisan legislation was enacted that addressed the glaring gap in current educational policy in terms of the readiness of students with skills required to succeed in the rigorous global economy. They refer to these skills as the Four C's: Critical thinking; Communication; Collaboration and Creativity.

To any adventure educator or Edge of Leadership partner school, it sounds familiar, huh?
As Laurine Parker, a teacher from Keene High School stated recently at the High 5 Symposium in Brattleboro, VT, "The Edge of Leadership program aligns perfectly with the expected outcomes of the 21st Century Learning Skills." (click here to see how)

Laurine was speaking in a group of about 50 educators and students from CT, VT, MA and NH who had come together to share their experiences with the Edge of Leadership program which was developed by High 5 over 8 years ago. Edge of Leadership grew out of The Leadership Project, a program originally developed by the founders of High 5 with funding from the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention several years ago. The Leadership Project, a community-wide youth led leadership initiative, was named one of the top 10 exemplary programs in the country.

Edge of Leadership begins with a life-changing 3 day retreat in Brattleboro at the High 5 Adventure Learning Center. Two sessions are being offered this summer. Each session is open to five teams of 2-3 students and a teacher (grades 9-11). Because of the demand for the limited slots, interested schools are invited to apply. Over the 3 days, teams participate in adventure activities including High 5's challenge course, participate in communication and problem solving initiatives, learn skills for leading dialogue sessions in their school and community and begin to develop a plan to address a social or environmental issue that is important to them. Teams also develop life long friends and connections to the students and staff from their other schools attending the retreat.

"Within three hours I went from feeling like I had no meaningful relationships at school to feeling so closely connected it was crazy!" Alexia, high school freshman reflecting on the first morning of the Edge of Leadership.

To learn more about Edge of Leadership and how to be considered for participation, go to or contact Ryan McCormick at 877-511-4445.

This year two EOL sessions are being held: July 29-31st and August 5-7. Lodging and meals are included in tuition. Some financial assistance maybe available.

When we get intimate in our workshops, how much are we able to be ourselves?

In a recent multi-day workshop a participant sat down next to me during a break and asked, "Now, how much of the 'real' Liz have we been getting?" I asked him what he meant. He went on to explain that as he listened to me talk about adventure education, its purpose and strength, and watched me lead under it's direction, he began to wonder how much of my leadership was truly 'me' as opposed to 'professional me'.

Our discussion ensued considering the differences, if any, there are between a 'real' and 'professional' leader in this industry.

I bring it up to consider: In your work, how much of yourself do you give, or are you able to give, and how often do you need a professional face?
When we get intimate in our workshops, how much are we able to be ourselves?

Please share your thoughts!

How often is your challenge course professionally inspected? Industry guidelines recommend at least once per year. But it is the responsibility of everyone who facilitates on a challenge course to know what to be checking for in between professional course inspections.

Professional well trained practitioners are always scanning their challenge course with a critical eye toward safety. High 5's Ian Doak shares just some of the places everyone who facilitates on a challenge course should be checking out.

1. Overall structure - Look for changes to the course. On tree course look for limbs that could have come down or are hung up in the trees. Look for lighting damage to the trees. Bark blown off the trunk. On pole courses also look for lighting damage or wood pecker damage to the poles. On all courses look for wear and tear to the footing surrounding elements. Especially where participants could trip.

2 - Cables - Look at the cables to see if any changes have occured. Are they tighter or more loose then normal? This includes your guy cables. If you see changes, call your vendor as this indicates something else is going on.

3 - Connections - Do the cable connections look normal? (compare to other connections) If serving sleeves were used, are they currently in place or is the cable end frayed and needs addressing.

4 - Wildlife - Check under platforms, behind climbing walls, in tires and surrounding ground area for nests. These could be anything from your friendly robin to bees, squirrels or snakes. Our animal friends can do unintended damage and will need to be removed. Check local guidelines and/or consult a professional. Then create barriers to keep them from returning.

5 - Belay Systems - Are the pulleys and shear reduction devices set up correctly? Are they on the right cable and is the p-cord and or rope running through it correctly? It is particularly important to verify this after gear rescues.

7.- Equipment - Inspect all participant equipment before use. Look for rodent damage or wear that occurred last program and was not reported.

Join us at High 5's Managing an Adventure Program workshop to delve deeper into this topic.

If you spot anything on your challenge course that is out of the ordinary or concerning, report it to the person responsible for the course locally and contact your Inspect and maintenance professional ASAP.

The information shared above is intended as a supplement to proper training and annual inspection and maintenance by a professional vendor.

Questions or comments....enter them below or give us a call at 802.254.8718 or 877.356.4445

Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter @high5adventure . We love to hear from you!

Recent Comments

  • Rachel Sampson: I would like to try this but can't find where read more
  • Jen Ottinger: Hi Ryan! Great words to live by. read more
  • markcollardinc: Ryan, I saw Michelle Cummings present this exercise earlier this read more
  • markcollardinc: Ditto! We - Ryan, Nate and me - all reading read more
  • markcollardinc: Hey Ryan, why is this activity called Ubuntu CIRCLE when read more
  • higherbeing: Love it! read more
  • Wes: Hi Ryan. I am currently looking into establishing a physics read more
  • Ryan McCormick: Thanks Nate, I love this activity and find useful in read more
  • Nate Folan: Right on Ryan! This activity is very effective. Thanks for read more
  • Ryan McCormick: Well, it depends on the size of the group. With read more