Challenge course tests and teaches students 55 feet above ground

Gettysburg College's vast new challenge course features climbing and flying elements that reach as high as 55 feet, said Director of Experiential Education John Regentin.

By scrambling across wildly swinging "lily pads" or free-falling from the "swing-shot," campus and outside groups learn about leadership, communication, trust, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and individual and cultural differences.

"The giant swing can push close to 2 Gs of force while our 'pamper plank' can encourage someone to jump outwards up to 10 feet while standing 40 feet high on a platform," Regentin said. The course, which can accommodate up to 45 people at once, opened this past fall beside the campus's Quarry pond.

The challenge course is just one aspect of of the Gettysburg Adventure and Recreational Board (GRAB). Being a GRAB student facilitator is an intense leadership experience. Each spring, facilitators head to an in-depth Wilderness Institute. Through a blog and video, you can share in the 2008’s institute in Colorado’s Southern Sawatch Range and more. In addition to the challenge course, GRAB also offers trips for new students even before their first day in class.

The first groups to use the course were the men's and women's swimming teams, and all first-year students were slated to participate in workshops that focus on community. The first-year program used the course to introduce students to others who live on their floor. In turn, resident assistants used the experience as opportunity to talk about how they want their hall to function.

All students are eligible to sign up for seven-week "Leadership through Facilitation" group management program using the challenge course. In addition, Regentin said, the new course offers academic possibilities, ranging from foreign-language students testing their skills by negotiating the course without using English to physics students gaining an understanding of gravity beyond what any equation can convey.

A wide variety of off-campus organizations have come to Gettysburg for challenge-course experiences since the College's original challenge course was built in 1995. Users have ranged from the Arlington Country Police Department and Internal Revenue Service to students from local public school and other colleges and universities.

The College got a chance to re-think the concept when the new Stadium West parking lot encroached on the original, more modest facility. The new course is extensive enough to permit multi-day programs without repetition and will be complemented by climbing and "bouldering" walls planned in Gettysburg College's new Center for Athletics, Recreation, and Fitness.

Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With a student body of approximately 2,500, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded in 1832.

Contact: Jim Hale, online content editor

Posted: Thu, 4 Dec 2008

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