If we could host a world summit, we’d bring the leaders to the Skylemar Challenge Course. Cory, our Director of Outdoor Education, has an amazing way of bringing out the best in people. She’s one of those teachers filled with positivity that you remember the rest of your life. Her specialty is bringing together those with different perspectives, fostering respect and building solid relationships.
Cory’s magic begins during Staff Orientation. With safety as her top priority, she spends many days training staff to teach at the Challenge Course, SkyPines and lead trips. Since Orientation is a getting-to-know-you time for 100 people, she uses many of the same games she’ll be teaching the kids. The games have a hidden agenda ...team building. To the kids, they’re just fun.
For example, the first time the campers have Challenge Course activities, the goal is to build the bunk up as a team. Through “Cory Games”, we learn each other’s names, practice respectful speaking and build a problem-solving group mentality.
Once the foundation has been laid, the group is ready to solve bigger challenges. They head to the Low Course for group activities including the Whale Watch (a teetering wood platform that requires a total group balancing effort), King’s Finger (get the tire over and around the upright pole without ever touching it), and the Nitro Swing (using hanging ropes, get the whole group from one side to the other).
With elements like the Swinging Log, Trust Fall, Mohawk Walk and 10’ Team Wall, the idea is to create a positive atmosphere within the group (typically a bunk), so that when you’re on the High Course you’ll have a deeper sense of trust. If you trust those around you to be invested in your success, then you’ll be more likely to achieve success. Makes sense in the adult-work world too.
As Cory transitions the kids to the High Course, it’s all about challenge by choice. You choose how you’re going to challenge yourself. The hope is that you’ll push yourself out of your comfort zone. In fact, that’s the real challenge, not the climb itself.
The Giant Swing is the perfect bridge between Lows and Highs because you choose how high to go. Try to imagine: you’re in the safety harness, helmet on, ready, "on belay". As your bunkmates pull the rope back, you're lifted up... up... up towards the sky. When you feel high enough, you pull the "quick-release" cord to let go, soaring through the trees, swinging freely in the air. It’s exhilarating!
Another high element, the Burma Bridge, is kind of like tightrope walking. There’s a shaky wire on each side to hold on to for balance, sort of. Then there’s the Cat Walk, which is two trees with a telephone pole hung between them. It’s even more challenging (also known as “scary”) because there’s nothing to hold on to, so nowhere to put your hands.
The Heebie-Jeebie is a wire with two ropes that get smaller and smaller as you go across. And it has a cool name! There’s the Vertical Ladder which is sort of like those wobbly ladders that you’d find at a carnival. For us, when you get to the other side you can kiss the tree. The Multi-line is a cable with ropes hanging down, so you can pretend to be Tarzan. The Rock Wall is for climbing, and it’s one of these things that’s much harder than it looks.
For a challenge, the Zipline is a big one. It’s hard enough to climb up to the platform, much less figure out how to get your body over and up on top. With the zipline, you have to tell yourself to get off. Bunkmates cheer and encourage, and so does the counselor at the top. But the counselor will never ever push you off, even if you ask. Instead, it’s all up to you.
In general, the Challenge Course is a tremendous equalizer. Someone considered a great athlete may be afraid to try the zip. Then again, someone who may be quick to climb may not be so great on the fields. It takes all kinds, and the idea is for everyone to support and root for each other.
So back to this world summit idea. If we could just get Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-un to 457 Sebago Road, maybe they’d learn to trust, respect and build relationships. It might work, perhaps, because Cory’s in charge.