Starting an Adventure Program/Building a Challenge Course
- I’d like to build a challenge course, where do I begin?
- Do I need a lot of money to build a challenge course?
- Do I need a challenge course to run a successful adventure program?
- How can I promote the idea of an adventure program to students, parents, staff and administration?
- Do you need special insurance to run a Challenge Course program?
- How much does it cost to maintain a Challenge Course on a yearly basis?
- How much training is required to run a Challenge Course program?
- Where can I go for training?
We hear this question frequently and our standard response is; “What are the goals of your program? What are you trying to accomplish with your students, campers, etc.?” Spending some time pondering these questions will ultimately save you time and money. We can help you answer these questions and guide you more accurately as to what you need, to develop a successful adventure program. From a full challenge course to game bags to initiative props, we can make better recommendations and help you build a better program when we understand your program goals. [Link to Initial Program Questionnaire]
Once you decide to move forward, we’d plan a site visit to assess possibilities. We like to send representatives from both our training and building departments on these visits, to get the most accurate information and therefore make the best recommendations to fit your needs and budget.
Unfortunately, challenge courses like everything else have increased in cost over the years. We typically build in the range of $8,000 to $50,000. It has become pretty standard for programs that want a good size challenge course to build it in stages over a two to three year period. This helps with the budget and can even support a progression and sequencing of activities that are consistent with curriculum goals and objectives. But, go on to the next question – you may choose another route to achieve your goals.
No! For the past thirty years, many successful, exciting programs have been running their programs without a challenge course or with a minimal number of elements. There’s some truth to the notion there’s nothing like a high profile ropes course to get people jazzed about adventure learning; but it’s not a prerequisite to a quality program. Most good programs spend a lot of quality time right on the ground and maximize the games and initiatives that are such a rich part of adventure education.
One very successful method has been to sponsor an adventure awareness afternoon, evening, or better yet, a whole day. There is no better way to gain an understanding of adventure education than to experience it first hand. No amount of letters, brochures, videos or lectures can compare to actually doing some adventure activities with those you are trying to win over. High 5 has been involved with this type of program many times over the years, so give us a call for some helpful tips.
The simple answer is no. Most schools and organizations have existing insurance that will cover your adventure program. Occasionally, camps or private institutions may need to add a rider to an existing policy to provide adequate coverage. On rare occasions, separate insurance has to be purchased. We have many resources regarding this topic and would be glad to share them with you.
An annual inspection is recommended by High 5 and by guidelines put out by the ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology). Costs vary greatly depending upon the size of the course. Prices range from $800to $1,800. You should expect to need repairs over time, depending on the courses age and exposure to elements. And just like a car, challenge courses kept in good repair on a regular basis tend to have lower annual costs because repairs are not allowed to accumulate over the years resulting in a major one-time expense.
High 5 regularly schedules annual inspections on a “swing.” By this we mean a geographic swing through an area that has several locations in need of an annual inspection. We do them all at once and share the travel costs amongst all the sites. This can provide significant savings for each location.
Training is the key component to any successful program. You can build a beautiful challenge course, but it will remain just that until you have qualified staff to make good programs happen. Just as you would put properly trained lifeguards and swim instructors in charge of a pool and swimming program, you need to ensure that you have qualified and competent staff working on your challenge course. We strongly recommend that staff have a minimum of a five-day skills based training workshop before taking on the demands of running a program. And five days is minimal. We regularly have people come to our training workshops that have attended multiple skills workshops over several years time. These people have solid technical and facilitation skills and are very current with trends in the field. While being an adventure practitioner is not brain surgery, it does require one to have a solid set of skills to assure safe and competent programming. We highly recommend that you view the training of good staff to be as important as the building of a beautiful challenge course. Training information
The quick answer is High 5 Adventure Learning Center. We have highly skilled staff with years of experience and we conduct great training workshops.The longer answer: There are many places you can go for training that offer quality workshops. The key here is to be particular. As with anything, make sure the vendor you choose is knowledgeable, up to date with current trends in the field and provides the kind of training that you need. We also recommend that you choose a vendor member of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT). Ask around for recommendations from others. There’s no better source of information than someone who has had experience with the organization that you’re considering. Good quality, professional training is available; make an effort to find the best match for the skills you need. Give us a call, we’ll tell you what we have to offer and if it isn’t what you need, we’ll help you find someone else. Training page