Balancing 30 feet off the ground on a swaying rope was part of team-building activities for Wellington School students at Camp Lazarus last week.
"Some of the students were terrified, but conquered their fear by at least climbing up to the first platform," said Jennifer Jupp, seventh-grade dean of students. "All of the students in my group went up. We don't force anyone to go up, but we do encourage them.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Wellington School went through the team-building exercises and the high ropes course Sept. 11 and 13 at Camp Lazarus, near Delaware.
Physical education teacher David Herrick said advisory teachers take the middle school students to Camp Lazarus each year.
"The reason we go every year is for advisory groups to build a special bond and establish or develop critical life skills, including leadership, cooperation, patience, trust and problem-solving," he said.
Eighth-Grade Dean Eric Sulzer said advisory groups of 12 students are led by one teacher.
"The adviser acts as the point person and advocate for their advisees throughout the year," he said.
He said the students participate in various team-building activities in the morning before they attempt the high ropes course in the afternoon.
"In one of the activities, they had to work together to figure out how to get all 12 of them to stand on a small wooden square, write with a marker controlled by 12 strings and pass between wooden squares using wooden planks, without touching the ground," Sulzer said.
"They use problem-solving, critical thinking and analytical skills during the challenges," he said. "They are also working on cooperation, patience and leadership."
Eighth-grader Jasmine Haraburta said the high ropes course "was really cool."
"I like challenging myself," she said. "You have to use a lot of balance and strength to push yourself through the course."
She said one team-building exercise she liked was walking through the woods blindfolded with another student guiding her.
"You have to learn to communicate with people," she said. "I had a lot of fun."
Seventh-grader Leia Goldberg said she loved the obstacles on the high ropes.
"You have to balance, but you also have to listen to people telling you how to go through the obstacles," she said. "Being the first one up on the ropes is really exciting."
Eighth-grader Elizabeth Kazemi wrote in a reflection of the day that she "learned" to love the ropes course.
"To be honest, at the beginning I was petrified," she wrote. "It seemed I just got the thought in my head that I wasn't capable of doing it. I put on my equipment and stood in line. I had many thoughts going through my head, like, 'Is it really that high up?'
"I started to climb the ladder and kept my cool, but when I got up there, I almost started to panic," she said. "I looked down and my heart started to beat very fast, but I had promised myself that even if I wasn't going to do the entire course, I had to do at least one obstacle."
She said the first obstacle was a log.
"I took a deep breath and started to walk," she wrote. "I held onto the rope I was attached to tightly until I realized that it wasn't scary at all. I got across with no problem and felt very confident in myself.
"I went onto the next obstacle, which was the crooked, shaky bridge and walked around with no hands, then went backwards and even decided to dangle in my harness in mid-air," she wrote.
"When I finished the whole course, a very big sense of accomplishment came over me," she said. "I loved this part of the trip because it challenged me to go out of my comfort zone. It helped me grow as a person and it made me feel as though nothing is impossible to do."
In another exercise, a group of students had to figure out how to balance on a platform wheel with everyone on the wheel, Herrick said.
"In the game Blind Call, students are given an animal and must not tell others what animal they are, then are blindfolded and placed on a string course they have to manage with one hand," he said. "They must move on the string course and call out their animal sound to find others who are the same animal. The team that finds all members of their group wins."
He said students learn a lot about themselves from the tasks.
"They learn how to lead, follow, cooperate, listen and make group decisions better than they did before attending Camp Lazarus," he said.
Jupp said a challenge her group completed was getting 12 students across three platforms with only two planks, neither of which was long enough to bridge either set of platforms.
"They had to get all the students on the planks without anyone falling off or the planks touching the ground," she said. "Students had to share ideas, listen to each other and make decisions as a group.
Jupp said the week is valuable for students and staff members.
"I really like the type of learning that takes place there," she said. "It's something you can't teach in a classroom and the things they learn at the camp will be valuable for the rest of their lives."