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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."

Dat first came to High 5 for the 2015 Annual High 5 Practitioner's Symposium with the East Hartford Youth Services Bureau student group. His vivacious enthusiasm and positive attitude stood out in the crowd!

Dat's personality and the way he showed up - ready to Connect, Empower and Lead -stood out. Ryan McCormick, Edge of Leadership's (EOL) Director, quickly identified him as a great potential participant and contributor for the EOL Summer Program and invited him to attend.

Not surprisingly, Dat brought the same excitement and charisma to the summer program as a leader, motivator, energizer, and spreader of positivity.

EOL facilitator Anne Louise Wagner recalls, "I was fortunate to be in Dat's dialogue group on the final day of the summer program. This gave me the opportunity to see a different side of Dat. When a teacher in the group shared about a challenging moment, Dat identified with her obstacles, experiencing similar challenges in his life, and had the courage to share. The stories and heartfelt exchange was a very special moment for me".

We are thrilled that only is Dat interested in returning to EOL's 3-day summer program in 2016 as a Student Facilitator, but he has chosen to pursue a degree in Adventure Education.

Dat writes,

"I am excited to say that I will be majoring in adventure education at Plymouth State University in the pursuit to further my skills and experience! Everyone at High 5 has made a big impact in that decision and I would like to say thank you for the opportunity."

Dat, thank you from all of us at High 5 for sharing your news! We'll be watching for your future contributions to adventure education, and to the world!

If you are interested in learning more about Edge of Leadership or how your high school or youth program can participate in the Edge of Leadership Summer Program, give Anne Louise or Ryan a call at 802.254.8718 or 877.356.4445

This was just one of the many questions teachers came away with after shadowing a high school student for one full day of school. The shadowing initiative, which most teachers called "eye-opening", was developed and organized by Edge of Leadership students at Lincoln Sudbury High School.

Here is the story of how it began...

It started four years ago when Lincoln Sudbury High School (LSHS) teacher Amanda Klein and several of her students attended Edge Of Leadership's (EOL) High School Summer Program at High 5 for the first time.

Amanda, referred to by her students as Klein, is a true teacher champion, believing not only in her students but also in authentic youth empowerment, voice, and leadership. Klein was a perfect EOL fit and after a great first year, she returned with an even larger group of amazing students the next year. Among them, a 15-year old student named Heidi who, although nobody knew it at the time, would come to have a profound impact on the entire EOL program - and on the teachers and students at her high school.

The story continues...

Each year EOL high school students are asked, "What can you do to improve the community at your high school?" The students of LSHS identified a strong disconnect between faculty and students. They determined that their focus would be to build stronger student-teacher connections, but the question remained, "How are we going to do that?"

This is where Heidi comes in. Heidi had come across an article entitled "A Veteran Teacher Turned Coach Shadows 2 Students for 2 Days- A sobering Lesson Learned". The article is about the amazing insight a teacher/coach gained from shadowing students for two days. Inspired by the article, Heidi suggested the EOL group at LSHS organize a similar experience for their school's teachers. Heidi, mentored by Klein and supported by her peers, put her ideas into action. This was no easy task, but the EOL group crafted a plan and presented their proposal to the administration. High 5's EOL staff spent time helping students design an action plan not only for conducting the day, but also to capture and share the participating teachers' key learnings with the entire staff and administration.

In the first session, only 2 teachers shadowed students but their response to the experience was inspiring. The teachers were surprised how much their experience could improve their teaching. Through this powerful, student-led professional development opportunity, teachers gained not only insight, but also empathy.

After the success of the initiative at LSHS and in recognition of her leadership, we invited Heidi to return to the EOL Summer program to play a new role as a student facilitator. Heidi and two other students from LSHS shared their initiative with the other EOL groups attending from high schools across New England. Several of the EOL groups began planning similar initiatives, including our home team at Keene High School.

Recently, LSHS conducted another student shadow day but this time 9 teachers participated over two weeks. The success of the first session convinced LSHS administration to budget for substitutes and organize class coverage for a much larger number of teachers. Again, teachers responded that the experience was "eye opening."

To capture the learning, the team interviewed several of the participating teachers. The team is currently putting together a presentation for the entire faculty. During a recent site visit, Anne Louise and Ryan were able to do a mini-interview with students that you can view at the link. Below the link we've also summarized some of the teacher feedback following their experience.

You can watch the video here.

This is a perfect example of leadership in action and the goals of High 5's Edge of Leadership program.

Heidi has had a pivotal role in shaping how High 5 support schools after the EOL Summer Program. Her name will forever be part of EOL history - and part of the culture of student/teacher connection at Lincoln Sudbury High School.

Sampling of actual teacher reflections:

"The transition from one class to another, it was very challenging to switch mindsets from one subject to another so quickly (Physically and Mentally.)"

"It is easy to "check out" when I had trouble understanding the material."

"Physical switching, going from one building to another, getting to class on time, how quickly some activity was starting at the beginning of class; there was not a lot of extra time; feeling tired at the end of the day, exhausted mentally."

"The day seemed very long. How do students remember everything from the whole day? It seemed like the time between the first block and the last block was an eternity."

"I really enjoyed the experience overall, especially the free blocks. Now I see why students love and need them. I didn't expect that at all."

"Transition-- made me think about my own teaching style and what actually works for students/ audience. In the end, the class is not for me but the students. I'll now be much more aware. I'll start class with music to help students connect to the present class. I knew it before but never experienced it."

"Making sure that everyone is reached, not necessarily everyone talks, but that everyone gets engaged in different ways."

"Cognitive/ academic flexibility that is necessary for students. Have to be good at many different skills throughout day."

"I think that it is really important for teachers to see what a day looks like for students. It is busy, dynamic, frustrating, and takes a lot of fortitude! I will definitely keep that in mind as I plan my future classes."

"Makes you remember what you have forgotten about students' challenges and struggles. I make connections to my shadowing experience all the time while teaching."

For more info on Edge of Leadership, contact Ryan McCormick or Anne Louise Wagner at High 5 - 802.254.8718 or 877.356.4445

This activity works with every group size and every age from elementary to corporate teams!
All you need is two decks of Ubuntu cards.

"We aren't sure why this didn't make it into the Ubuntu Activity Guide. Ryan and I had a good laugh about that because we use it all the time". Chris Ortiz

Ubuntu Mimeograph
When working on a project, we rely on team members to do their best work to contribute to the success of the project team. If that work is not organized and agreed on by all team members, details can be missed and distrust in team members can fester. The object of the activity is for the team to recreate a pattern of cards that the facilitator has created in another, out of site, space.

Resources/Materials: You will need 2 decks of Ubuntu cards.

Set up:
Create a pattern of 10- 15 cards out in a hallway or in another room. Place some cards single image side up and others multi image side up. Turn some sideways or angled. Include the remainder of the deck as a part of the pattern.

Give the group the second deck of cards.

• Each team member may only leave the room to go look at the pattern of cards one time.
• They must go alone, no talking or technology allowed while in the other space.
• They may not touch the cards that are a part of the pattern.
• When they return, they can describe what they saw to the other group members.
• Can the group recreate the pattern exactly as it is in the other space?

Facilitator tips: Snap a picture of the pattern at some point so at the end you can lay your phone down to check the groups work before you discuss.

Reflection Ideas:
• How did the group decide to organize information? Was the strategy and vision of the plan clear for all group members?
• In what ways does this activity reflect the groups typical organization? Similarities? Differences?
• What lessons could be brought back to the workplace as a result of this exercise?

Saboteur Layer
Prior to playing, pass around folded up note cards to everyone and tell the group to secretly look at the card. Tell them that if someone has an X on the inside of their card they are the saboteurs for this activity and their goal is to prevent the group from being successful. (I never actually put an X on a card but adding this layer of distrust on the team can be a powerful discussion point.)

Are You Ready to Build on Your Skills?
Beyond Basics: August 18-21

Scholarships available!

Beyond Basics is an advanced challenge course operations workshop.

It is designed to help practitioners reinforce and improve the requisite technical skills needed to effectively operate a low and high challenge course program. Emphasis will be on developing a deeper understanding of challenge course systems and cultivating a critical eye for risk management.

This workshop prepares challenge course practitioners for Level II Certification.

What you'll learn:

-Review of basic skills: knot tying, proper use and maintenance of equipment, belay skills

-Self belay techniques for challenge course access, set up and gear retrieval

-Risk management

-Emergency action plans

-Accident prevention and basic rescue procedures

-Specialty element operations such as Flying Squirrel, Pamper Pole/Plank, Zip Line, Rappel, Giant Swing.

Register Today

Click here to see our Entire 2014 Workshop Catalog

If you'd like to talk to a staff person about what training is right for you, call (802) 254-8718.

Are You Ready for a New Adventure?

belayershuddle.jpgAdventure Basics: July 21-25

Scholarships available!

Adventure Basics is your gateway to adventure education and challenge course programming skills. Participants will learn both the basic technical skills of operating a challenge course as well as the facilitation skills essential to sequencing a program to maximize outcomes with participants.

Adventure Basics provides an important first step for both understanding the flow and interplay of a group experience and for learning the skills to run an effective challenge course program.

What you'll learn:
-Essential challenge course skills for the operation of low and high challenge course elements including spotting, spotting skills training, equipment use, knot tying, belay skills and risk management techniques

-Knowledge of a wide variety of icebreakers, warm-ups, cooperative games, and problem solving exercises

-Creating a positive environment for learning, positive group norms and reflection/processing techniques

-Curriculum Development ideas: selecting and sequencing activities for optimal outcomes with your group

There are still a few spots remaining in this training, and scholarship funding is available (call for information.)

Register Today

Click here to see our entire 2014 Workshop Catalog

If you'd like to talk to a staff person about what training is right for you, call (802) 254-8718.


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

On behalf of the entire team at High 5, congratulations to the these newly certified Challenge Course professionals.

Level 1 Certification -
· Nicole Cambridge

Level 2 Certification -
· Raychel Setless

· Tony Sendra

· Brian Divelbliss

· Jay Plantillas

Challenge Course Manager Certification -
· Donald Padrick

· Josh Anderson

· Austin Paulson

Learn more about certification...

There are many facets to great facilitators. But the main commonality is they never stop developing their craft.

If you are looking to go from being a good facilitator to a great facilitator with a style authentic to who you are and what you believe in, the High 5 Training Team has some tips for you!

1. Watch other facilitators at work. Observe the group behavior and reactions. Are they engaged? Is anyone disengaged? How do they create buy-in and inclusivity in ways that are barely detectable? Do they use language that empowers and is strength-based? Make note of what works and what flops.
2. Take a good look at how you use humor. Do you use it in a way that is engaging or in a way that shuts people down? Beware of sarcasm. Sarcasm is generally only funny to a small percentage of your group and is frequently regarded as a cloak for the insecure.
3. Practice silence. Watch facilitators you admire and see how long they remain silent after giving instruction, asking if there are questions or asking for feedback.
If you are talking more than 40% of the time in your program, you are probably talking too much. Start practicing staying quiet with family and friends. See how much more you learn and observe!
4. Become Comfortable with Metaphors. Start out by taking some of the traditional or classic adventure games and incorporating metaphors that speak to the nuances, community or culture of your group. Pay attention to how other more experience facilitators incorporate metaphor into their programs.
5. Maintain a Solid Foundation. While a lot of new and shiny ideas come and go, the best facilitators aren't afraid to try new things, but they always have a solid foundation upon which they can rely. Sometimes the most traditional, tried and true activities and methods are the ones that have the most meaning for the group.
6. Over Prepare While Remaining Flexible. If you are over prepared for each program, you will never be at a loss or fumbling when the unexpected crops up. However, the great facilitators are also flexible, skillfully going where the group takes them.
7. Create a Community of Practice. Seek out other facilitators who are also interested in continual growth and development. Get together on line and share stories, ideas, resources and key learning. Take turns watching videos of each person facilitating. And practice giving and receiving feedback at the end of each call.
8. Document. Keep a reflection journal of your facilitation experiences. Make notes of what went well, what was challenging and what you'd do differently. Use this as your "go to" resource when creating programs.
9. Read and Watch. There are great books and resources available to help you develop your craft. Some High 5 favorite books: Islands of Healing, A Guide to Adventure Based Counseling by Schoel, Prouty and Radcliffe; Open to Outcome, Journey towards the Caring Classroom; Frank, The Processing Pinnacle; Simpson, Teachable Moments; Cain, Cummings, Stanchfield, Happiness Hypothesis; Haight, Teaching with Love and Logic; Fay & Fink. Some High 5 Favorite TedTalks: Brene Brown, Jane McGonigal, Shawn Achor, Derek Sivers, and Seth Godin.
10. Participate in Professional Groups. Some of the groups that provide educational opportunities for facilitators include: AEE, ACA and ACCT. Presenting is another great way to polish your skills. Start with some of the smaller regional conferences.
11. Never Stop Growing. The best of the best understand there is always room for growth. They are constantly reading, observing, practicing, taking workshops and trying out new ideas.

And if you like this activity, you can find over 30 more in the Ubuntu Activity Guide.

Join us at the Ubuntu Workshop and get the Ubuntu Activity Guide FREE!


Thanks to Scott Goldsmith for this fun activity. Two teams go head-to-head in an attempt to capture everyone onto their team. But which team are you on?

Group Size: Larger Group
Time: 10 minutes

Competition is not always evil; in fact it can be a great motivator to enhance performance. The key is to create a situation in which players practice positive sportsmanship and celebrate victories, instead of demeaning losses. This activity allows for competitive spirits to shine while blurring the defined lines of what team they belong to.

1. This game uses the multi-image side of the cards.
2. Divide the group equally into two teams.
3. Place a spot marker on the ground and have these two teams line up across from one another (the first person in line on each team is face-to-face with the spot marker between them).
4. Give each participant a card and ask that they not peek at the multi-image side.
5. On GO, the two participants at the front of each line flip over their card to the multi-image side.
6. The player who finds the matching image first captures the other player onto their team and they both go to the back of the line.
7. The next person in line on each team steps up to the spot marker and shows their multi-image side.
8. First to person to find the match captures the other player onto their team.
9. Continue play until one team has all the players or it stops being fun.

This is not a particularly heady game; however, it does offer an opportunity to talk about sportsmanship. It is interesting to watch players as they cheer each other on. Ask players which team they were on? Why did they choose that particular team?

By giving each participant a card, some players will begin to memorize their cards and know what the match is with other players before they even come to the line. If you are playing with a smaller group, this is more likely to happen. An alternative way to play which would eliminate this possible scenario would be to give the first person in the line half the deck of cards. He or she would turn over the first card and then pass off the deck to the next person, placing the spent card on the bottom of the deck.

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
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  • 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
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