: May 16, 2024 : Emma Hobart-Sheran : 0

The vision for a ropes course at Park has been brewing for nearly a decade, a testament to the school community’s dedication to providing unique opportunities for student growth. Physical Education Department Head Michelle Young and Kimberly Boyd, Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations, have been overseeing the project, ensuring the ropes course is more than an adventure, embodying a commitment to pushing boundaries and fostering camaraderie. Funded by Phase II of the SPARK Campaign, the opening of the course this spring heralds a new chapter in Park’s educational journey, offering students new ways to challenge themselves, support each other, and embrace the great outdoors.

The Park ropes course blends low and high elements strategically placed indoors and outdoors to maximize student engagement and safety. With careful consideration given to harnesses, helmets, and rigorous safety protocols, students are encouraged to reach new heights— both physically and mentally. The course isn’t just about conquering obstacles; it’s about pushing oneself beyond comfort zones, learning to trust in others, and discovering personal resilience.

When I first came into the ropes course class, I was sooo scared of heights, but with the help of Ms. Fonseca and my classmates, I am not able to get to the top of the rock wall!”

—7th grader

Low Elements: Building Foundations Together

The low elements are the beginning of the ropes course experience, where students tackle elements such as a large platform that is balanced on a central pivot. The goal of the element is for the group to try to bring the platform to rest and balance it in the center. Here, teamwork takes center stage as classmates support each other through challenges, offering physical support when needed, encouragement, and guidance. These low elements serve as a foundation for trust-building and collaboration, laying the groundwork for more daring adventures. Having someone depend on you and people to depend on is key for this learning experience.

Outdoor High Elements: Soaring to New Heights

Students encounter a series of high elements designed to test their limits and foster individual growth. With elements like one that gives the participant an opportunity to be lifted in the air on a static line by their classmates, students must confront their fears head-on, supported by the encouragement of their peers. Michelle Young highlights the “challenge by choice” aspect of this experience. The choice is theirs—to challenge themselves on the equipment, to lead and guide others in their strategies, or to simply be a supportive presence. Each decision is a step towards self-discovery and empowerment.

Celebrating Success: From Fear to Triumph

Guided by members of the Physical Education team, students in Grades 7 and 8 first experienced the ropes course elements as part of elective classes. Regardless of prior experience, students found themselves at a similar starting point as they experienced the rope course elements for the first time. While many of the students were both nervous and excited, their team-building exercises and

safety training helped them forge bonds of trust and camaraderie, essential for success both on and off the course. With each obstacle they conquered, the students experienced a sense of accomplishment. Every achievement— from navigating the high ropes course solo or simply taking ten steps across a beam—is celebrated with the fervor of an Olympic victory.

“Achievement” in these activities is not about competition; it’s about personal bests and collective support, a reminder that success comes in many forms. P.E. teacher Kara Fonseca notes that there is always something different to try on the ropes course. “Once students think they have mastered an element,” she says, “there’s always a different way to challenge themselves. One student climbed up the wall using only their left hand and foot!”

Through the carefully-crafted elements and supportive environment the ropes course offers, students learn not only to conquer obstacles but also to embrace the thrill of pushing beyond their comfort zones. As they navigate the course together, they emerge stronger, more confident, and ready to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.

The ropes course program will be opened up to all students in the Fall of 2024.

“Participating in the ropes course challenged me because it helped me take that extra step, try that new element, and experience a higher height.”

—8th grader