“Support!” yelled the teacher. “Everyone needs to be on support!” reiterated the student. The student, who just so happened to be standing on milk crates 15 feet in the air—and climbing—kept his balance as his teammates quickly surrounded the tower with outstretched arms to keep the tower—and their classmate—from falling.
Then they threw another milk crate at him.
Sophomores continued the other half of their Ascent experience this week, participating in city-wide service or bonding as a class at Camp Wyman, including this homeroom at the crate tower station.
“The goal is to create a structure as tall as possible,” explained Madeline Powers, math teacher and adult chaperone. She said groups start with basic building ideas, then begin experimenting with more creative approaches. “They’re just now starting to realize, ‘Oh! This is about us coming together.’”
At the rock climbing wall, students encouraged nervous classmates who worried about the height. Others discovered the fear and exhilaration of leaping forward off the zip-lining platform, cheered on by their peers. And small groups took turns being leaders and followers to conquer the ropes course challenges.
“It’s a different way to learn about communication, team-building, and teamwork,” said outdoor educator Katie Risch who has worked part time at the camp for 16 years and was belaying the student at the top of the crate tower. After each activity, students pause for a group discussion to reflect on what they’ve learned and why they’re here. Building trust rises quickly as a common theme, along with working together to get something done.
“If you don’t have trust,” commented one sophomore, “you aren’t going to get anywhere. Especially if you haven’t done something before.” Ms. Risch pointed out real world applications and upcoming major life decisions such as college, where people need to rely on other people for advice, encouragement, and support.
“When you’re struggling with something,” observed one sophomore, “you can get stuck doing it a certain way. Somebody else comes along and brings a new idea.” Students appreciated the creativity and leadership their peers brought to the experience as well as the ability to be themselves, free from judgment. They also appreciated that a day at Camp Wyman allowed them to enjoy respect, trust, new ideas, class unity, and positive vibes.
“Sophomore year presents unique challenges,” said Dave Boland, College Counselor and an Ascent coordinator. “The sophomore Ascent experience attempts to better equip these young men with the tools necessary to embrace these challenges. When one thinks of an ‘ascent’ what comes to mind is a challenging climb uphill. In many ways, sophomore year may feel like this.”
Up one hill at Camp Wyman groups work through various tasks at the ropes course. Mr. Boland especially values this station where students must balance on cable wire as partners, move silently on top of log stumps, and cooperate to work through other scenarios. “It’s probably the best activity at the camp in that it forces them to really work together,” he said. “They can’t do it by themselves. They have to lean on each other.”
Mr. Boland concludes, “Sophomore Ascent is intended to give these young men the courage to embrace these challenges, not alone but as a brotherhood.” With arms gripping each other to stay balanced on the current challenge, sophomores lean into the group and capture the essence of the day.