With thirteen 90 minute classes to choose from each session, all run by challenge course professionals, making a decision as to which class to attend can be challenging. Like last year, I find myself wishing this conference would be extended another day or two so that fewer offerings would be made each session and I would stand a great chance of going to more classes. Also similar to last year is the sense of “growing bigger” with every class, every conversation, ever idea that flies when discussed between two strangers brought together by common industry practices and philosophies. This is a very unique and talented group who have dedicated their lives to advancing healthy recreational pursuits as well as growing well-rounded and successful human beings.

The first session I attended was called “Facilitating Appropriate Student Behavior in the Challenge Course Setting” by Holly Hoeksema. During the class we discussed tried and true techniques for facilitating responsible student behavior during low and high ropes. We talked about fostering a safe environment, creating a positive learning environment through clear expectations and consistent consequences, and practical tools for ensuring successful outcomes.

Another session was called “The Element of Choice” by Tom Leahy, who specializes in training challenge course facilitators. The marrow of this workshop was a philosophical discussion about the practice of “Challenge by Choice” and an in-depth exploration of the forces that work against participants as they try to make an informed decision about their participation on the course.  We talked about how confidence, endurance, and resilience are three outcomes we seek to foster in our work and how an individual’s internal and external sense of control either helps develop or sets back these characteristics. There is a fine line between coercion, compliance, and choice, and Tom’s session helped to put present practices into perspective.

I also attended a workshop on Collaborative Meetings, which sought to provide key improvements that can go from the challenge course to the office, and Enhancing Your Facilitation Skills, which provided tips and tools that I will utilize heavily during 4-H state staff training in May.

And that was just the second day…