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High 5 has been a part of Olin College's program for first year students for over ten years. When we were first contacted about working with them, it was said that our approach to education was very in synch with the educational direction of this emerging college for engineers founded in 1997. Little did we know at that time that Olin would establish itself as the most innovative engineering school in the country.

The excerpt below is from a recent book by Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late about living in the age of "acceleration."

"New approaches to rapid learning are already filtering into the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, with some radically new models popping up. Consider just one example: Olin College. In a speech, the school's president, Richard K. Miller, explained that in 1997, the F.W. Olin Foundation established Olin College for the specific purpose of inventing a new paradigm for engineering education that prepares students to become exemplary engineering innovators ready to take on the biggest problems."

Check out this quick video of our work together!

"Improvisation is what you must do constantly, it is well beyond problem-based learning or even project-based learning. You are literally marching into a forest that no one has explored in search of things you have never seen."

High 5 is thrilled to be a part of this innovative institution. Our work with their first year students helps kick off college career with a day of thinking creatively, working cooperatively and exploring things they "have never seen."


We received this unsolicited feedback from a participant at our Beyond Basics-Advanced Challenge Course Skills workshop last week.

We decided to share this with you because the participant really captured the essence of High 5, our passion for the work and the experience we strive to co-create with all our participants.

Dear Jim,

I had a great time coming out to High 5 and the experience has stayed with me. I feel it is important to speak up when work has been done with excellence, as we so often only give customer feedback when something should be fixed. I loved that Beyond Basics was a more focused workshop emphasizing skills that are more likely to be needed. Liz and Ryan did an excellent job, letting us learn by experience.

Your team has created a welcoming atmosphere that I think is vital to continued strength in our industry. I loved the emphasis High 5 places on work with teambuilding participants and in workshops. I see this importance in the fact that even the executive director works directly with clients. Too often we imply that grants, sponsorships and other necessary funding are higher priority by moving the most experienced people to do this work exclusively.

It was wonderful too to hear about some of the powerful work your team has been doing with the same clients over time. As the balance of adventure programming is shifting to pay for play companies, I am so glad we have an organization like High 5 putting highest quality, intentional, educational programming out in the world.

Thank you for the work that all of your team are doing at High 5,

Thank you for noticing and for all the practitioners out there who are also putting out high quality, intentional, educational programming! High 5's to you!

All the best,

The High 5 Team!

There is still space in our June 5-8 Beyond Basics Workshop. Call today to sign up! 802.254.8718 or 877.356.4445 or email

High 5 Adventure extends our sincere thanks to The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation for their financial support to build capacity with our Edge of Leadership program.

Edge of Leadership has been developed based on 35 years of experience working with educators and youth. The mission is to connect students and teachers and empower them to develop and sustain leadership teams within their school in an effort to effect positive change.

Youth engaged in Edge of Leadership find their voice and decide on a problem they want to tackle within their own school or community. Given the right tools and opportunity, we believe that student leaders are a powerful resource for bringing innovation and positive influence to the school community and to the lives of others.

Thank you to The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation for sharing and supporting the Edge of Leadership vision.

Bay Path College Students Leadership Program

Bay Path College is a small women's college located in Longmeadow, MA. For the past seven years they have been bringing students to High 5 for a 3-day leadership development program. The focus of the program has been to create strong connections among students, develop leadership skills and thereby increase retention rates at the college. Here's a snapshot of this year's program.

A select group of seniors and first year students visited High 5 for 3 days this week with somewhat different goals. Seniors-To celebrate and have a culminating experience and to pass on any advice/ thoughts to the new class ; First Year Students-To begin to think about how to be leaders amongst their own class and for the whole school.

What transpired exceeded my expectations.

This was a group that was somewhat timid and with a lot of fear when it came to trust and heights. While we began very slowly, I was quickly reminded of the power of our work.

Half way through the program on day 2 we paused to do a group reflection activity. Seniors had taken anonymous questions from the first years, and thought of some advice to share on how to look ahead. The whole group had been through the smaller section of our Voyageur course the day before, but spent the second morning separate... the seniors climbing to the end of our Voyageur course and discussing their experiences and views on leadership, while the first years, with many anxious looking faces, learned to belay and take care of one another.

When asked to address the first year students on what advice they had, one senior shared this thought: "Make sure you live for every moment of your experience. Despite any attempts to slow it down, college will go by quicker than you can imagine. All you can do is take every experience you are offered while here and give it your best, give people your best and take all from it you can. If you do that you won't think about how slow or quick it went, but how great it was".

Going off with the first year students for the afternoon, I kept in mind how I and others in our field get to be a part of so many moments that make strong and lasting memories. The impact of the thoughts shared by the seniors and the power of adventure education helped us keep our focus and energy, and the transformation from fear to comfort and then trust was remarkable for this group of young women. What a wonderful experience for all of us.

Thanks to Phil Brown and Laura MacDonald (High 5 staff) who contributed greatly to the experience these girls had all week. May their words, tears and hugs last in our hearts and remind us for future programming how positive and encouraging our work can be.

Submitted by Liz Moore and Jim Grout


Tired of the same old community building games? Looking for something fresh and unexpected?

Grab the best deal in town! Access to over 30 activities with one prop smaller than your smart phone...literally. The Ubuntu Deck and Activity Guide. And only $31.75 (INCLUDES SHIPPING in US).

Beth Wonson, leadership and team building consultant, says, "I've used Ubuntu in several ways with the same management team. The first time was around identifying team strengths. Then we used the "Junk Drawer" activity to let go of behaviors we'd outgrown. Next we used it to share how we applied behavioral norms. Ubuntu is a small but versatile and powerful tool. I always keep it in my computer bag on consulting gigs!"

The activities in the guide have been compiled by both High 5 Trainers Ryan McCormick and Chris Ortiz as well as submitted from practitioners in the field. Grab your set today, play around with them and then send us your feed back and ideas. You just may see your name and activity in Ubuntu Guide TWO!

Have fun and share with us how you like it!

Here's another question out of our (so far unpublished) book of program philosophy, which uses a Socratic approach. As usual, ponder your own answer, before clicking through to our answers, which this time take the form of a discussion between Chris and Jim:

Is it a sound practice to hire someone to work on your challenge course that has substantial experience from work at other organizations but no professional training?

A trio of safety questions

Three challenge course safety questions -- figure out your own answers, then read ours after the jump:

1. Does an "assisted braking" belay device (like a GriGri) make belaying safer?

2. How do you tackle a situation with poor equipment storage? Imagine that you have recently been hired as the challenge course manager for a summer camp. Upon review of the procedures regarding equipment, you discover that no rope logs have been kept, that equipment was stored in a damp crawl space under a cabin and that much of it is moldy and rusted and that camp staff was allowed to use climbing equipment for personal use to various rock climbing sites. What steps will you take to assure that all of the equipment is in good order? What new procedures you will put in place to improve the situation?

3. No designated challenge course manager: For many years, a local high school challenge course program has distributed equipment keys to PE staff in the district so they can use the course with their students. The competency level of the staff varies greatly as some have received professional training and some have been trained internally. There is no one person in charge of the site beyond someone assuming the responsibility for distributing the keys. What are the implications of managing a site in this manner?

Think about your answers -- then read ours:

Before reading our thoughts on the matter, please mull over the following question, which is based on a real one that came our way:

I'd like to bring 35 eighth graders for a day of challenge course activities. We'll arrive at 9:00 am and need to leave by 2:00 pm. We'd like to have everybody do at least one high element. Our budget is limited, so I thought perhaps some of our teachers could help belay. Please get back to me as soon as possible!

Let's face it -- every adventure learning program needs a balanced budget and could use more customers to accomplish its goals. The challenge is: Can we maintain the integrity of what it is we're doing when the need for more revenue conflicts with what we are all about? In a future blog we'll take a look at the growing industry of "pay to play" adventure parks and canopy tours; but for now let's leave them out of the mix as we examine some questions that have confronted educational programs and their efforts to increase income.

Here are three realistic situations we have dealt with, and you might face. Before you read my thoughts on how to deal with them, think about what you would do:

"How is the philosophy of choice most effectively used?"

This question has long been debated throughout the field of adventure education. And there is no doubt it is a question that could elicit as many different responses as the number of people you ask. Recently, the question it poses has become all the more relevant as "pay to play" venues (Canopy Tours & Adventure Parks) have begun to proliferate around the country and offer an adventure experience that has limited opportunity for choosing your challenge and limits any kind of meaningful reflection as part of the experience. This new development aside, here are some old and new thoughts on the matter.

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