Foundations of Adventure Programming
What is Adventure Programming anyway? Great question! Glad you asked…or are at least willing to investigate it a little bit further. Adventure Programming is a cutting-edge form of experiential learning that can be infused into any Wellness, Physical Education, or Health (yes, AP can definitely be utilized in the classroom) curriculum without a ton of time or money. Of course, you will need some time to familiarize yourself with this style of intentional challenging and sequential teaching; but as a PE or Wellness teacher, it will come to you very quickly and naturally. The wonderful end result will be that EVERYONE in your classes will have fun and benefit on multiple educational levels. Adventure Programming fosters evident growth in students’ self-esteem, cooperation, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, self confidence, trust, activity levels, creativity and enjoyment.
When we hear the term “adventure” in the education or camp world, we usually conjure up images of high ropes, harnesses, rock climbing, or a multitude of other non-traditional, often daunting, pursuits. Adventure Programming is in fact a series of cooperative, physical challenges and activities that are designed to build and improve cooperation, communication, respect, critical thinking, and teamwork amongst students. Fitness and activity may certainly be included, and are usually sprinkled throughout the planned challenges while moving students through the activities and progressions. It is about direct, active learning experiences that focus on finding and solving problems through movement challenges. High element adventure ropes courses are not necessary (but certainly are challenging and fun if they can be afforded) to begin or host an adventure unit or program within your own school curriculum. In fact, any successful and meaningful adventure program should begin with the “ground games” that are planned by the instructor to be collaborative, mostly non-competitive, active, challenging, and very, very fun.
In a nutshell, Adventure Programming consists of planned, non-traditional games; warm-ups; trust exercises; group problem-solving activities; and group and/or team challenges. All of these activities will evolve and progress as the instructor moves the class through these planned progressions. Students learn to work cooperatively and challenge themselves safely amongst the class/group in a supportive and encouraging environment. The foundation for experiential learning of this nature is that “adventure” (trusting the process and not always knowing the path to the intended outcome) coupled with cooperative techniques will spark the optimal learning environment, which truly is “fun learning by doing.” This is a terrific recipe for enjoyment and learning in a powerful Physical Education or Wellness class!
What are your thoughts on implementing Adventure Programming in your professional educational world, recreational realm, or athletic team? Have you tried it already? Are you thinking about implementing Adventure Programming? What has your experience been thus far? Please let us know your thoughts or questions. Let’s learn together!
Assessment in Physical Education
In schools around the country, assessment and data are terms trending among teachers and administrators. It may be fairly obvious how educators can implement assessment and data when it comes to Mathematics or Language Arts; however looking through the lens of Physical Education may seem more difficult. There are a good deal of educators and school administrators who think assessing and tracking data on students during Physical Education class is unnecessary or even impossible. I, and many others in education, however, am in the other camp. I do see merit in using these tools with students when it comes to their personal fitness and Wellness.
I have been working in and around Physical Education, Fitness, and Wellness for my entire 20 year career (and counting) as an educator and administrator. One thing I can tell you is that education is always evolving, as it should. Children are learning at a much faster and furious pace. As such, along with that rapid pace comes rising expectations for demonstrated skills by these children. Since they are learning faster, they are also being expected to know more and “show what they know” in a more formal manner. This 21st century learning is heavily embedded in data and the students exhibiting growth in their skill set. By osmosis, these same expectations carry over into the realm of Wellness classes. I say it is great that they do carry over; because with all the new technology and best practices available now, it is much easier and efficient to show this type of growth in PE and Fitness classes around the country.
These assessments actually can provide many benefits to you as the teacher as well as your students. Assessments and PE truly make a great partnership. As with any symbiotic relationship, they really do need each other. These assessments and the data they reveal, can be utilized in a multitude of ways in order to help encourage and support your school’s PE/Wellness program. Still not sure how? Take a look at these brief examples…
What better way to demonstrate growth in PE than to develop a Fitness or Wellness class/program along with a series of benchmarks and movements along the way to help children improve? Education is about learning and improving your skill set (cognitive or physical). How perfectly this correlates to PE!
Think about it, students enter your PE class, and then are presented with a series of challenges or “tests” to develop a foundational baseline, a baseline that is easily trackable and presentable. Teachers then discuss with students individually where they are at relative to the program or personal goals and then send them off on individual plans and paths to improve their baseline scores and data. Every move they make in class from then on is designed to help them improve their “fitness, fundamentals and fun” factors. The journey begins!
Add to this programming the intrinsic factor of personal motivation and you are off and running even faster. I have been around long enough to notice that once you add a quantifiable component, such as a number of crunches, pounds lifted, distance run time, enhanced flexibility, etc…, the internal competitive fires begin to be stoked. People naturally want to improve, especially if someone is “keeping score.” In 20 years of teaching PE, I have seen very few K-12 students not want to better their scores for their benchmarks, no matter what the category. The kids love trying to improve and surpass their own scores. As long as you keep the scores individual in nature, then I believe this is a great way to motivate your students to improve their fitness levels. They will jump at the chance to improve and the end result is kids being more active in you class. It’s a win for everyone!
Assessments are a necessary component in today’s world of education. Teachers and students need to be able to demonstrate growth of student skills. Armed with that premise, assessments and Physical Education really should not exist without each other. In today’s data-driven world, what better way to demonstrate students’ skills as well as motivate and encourage lifelong movement goals; inspire activity; and ultimately demonstrate improvement than to track the measurable progress of school children?
Adventure Fitness might be a new term to many in the Physical Education, Fitness, Recreation, and Wellness world. However, if you are a teacher or instructor of children (or anyone for that matter) and you would like to utilize movement activities with a dash of fun, critical thinking and cooperation in some of your lessons, then don’t wait to become more familiar with Adventure Fitness!
Adventure Fitness is a newer form of adventure programming (many of you may know it as Project Adventure.) Project Adventure really is the company name that brought adventure programming, team building and cooperative learning to life in the 1970’s and beyond. Adventure Fitness came about in response to our nation’s need for fitness and movement and can be viewed as a more perpetual and vibrant form of adventure programming. Many of the more traditional games of adventure programming focus on cooperative activities, problem-solving, and critical thinking. On the other hand, Adventure Fitness “speeds up” these types of cooperative and inclusive games in a fashion that encourages lots of movement and activity without time for participants to be removed from play or even excluded for any amount of time. It is the best of both worlds from the Wellness perspective. Participants are still collaborating, cooperating, and thinking critically in the middle of the activity; however, they are participating in the activity at a more rapid and continuous pace. The greatest benefit I have personally witnessed as a teacher, coach, camp counselor, facilitator, and father, (yes, I do use these activities with my children, mainly at birthday parties and large gatherings) is that kids have a blast playing adventure fitness activities without realizing they have been “working out” for 25-30 minutes at a time. I always wait until the end of the class or session to make that announcement! All the children know is that they are having fun running around, smiling and laughing with their friends while the teacher continues changing and adapting rules as the activity progresses. The children usually seem surprised and disappointed when it is time to end class; however, it’s important to wrap up the session by asking a few questions about what they learned; how they feel (tired?); and did we reach our lesson goals? Whether running an Adventure Fitness session for children or adults, the participants are always left wanting more time for the activity. They always ask to play it again.
There are many benefits to planning and playing adventure fitness activities for your physical education classes, Wellness sessions, staff trainings and retreats, recreation programs, and athletic practices. The applications are limitless! Let me hear from you. Have you used Adventure Fitness or Project Adventure types of programming before? How might they work for you in your professional environment? What has been your experience as a participant or facilitator?