What is the history of Project Adventure on campus for the students? Is it part of a course or a co-curricular program?
The Project Adventure [PA] courses at Weston High School and Middle School were built approximately 14 years ago. The HS course was built in the woods next to the old gym and the MS course was built indoors in the new gym.
At this time, Project Adventure has been integrated into the physical education curriculum in kindergarten through grade 12. Highlights of the program are outlined below:
- Grades K-5 – the program is provided through activities and initiatives in the gym, developing the key skills in communication, collaboration, cooperation, problem solving, honesty, and trust (21st century skills).
- Grades 6-12- the program is provided through more challenging initiatives, the low elements, and high ropes courses giving students the ability to apply and enhance the above listed skills and concepts.
- Training of staff occurred both in and out of district.
- Through a grant from Weston Education Foundation an “Expert in Residence” from Project Adventure was brought in to work with both teachers and students during implementation stage.
- Improve the strength of learning for our students in 21st century skills (critical /creative thinking, collaboration, and communication) originating from physical education and the project adventure program.
- Give the students an opportunity to gain real world experiences and perspective working with other people in a team environment.
- Build students’ ability to solve authentic problems through collaboration and effective communication.
- Provide students with opportunities to transfer and apply knowledge/skills from other areas of study.
- Empower students to take “safe risks” leading them to a greater understanding of themselves and their own abilities.
- Allow students to access all 7 physical education concepts built into the curriculum: mainly community building, space, balance, movement, and fitness, but secondarily, perceptual motor and personal safety with challenge by choice.
During the building of WIS, the expansion of the HS, and relocation of tennis courts, football field and track, the district lost the wooded area where the HS course was built. Consequently the course was torn down. As a result:
- Grades K-8 continued to keep its indoor Project Adventure and its concepts and skills as a vital and strong part of the curriculum.
- Without the outdoor course, the HS lost a large part of the Project Adventure program shrinking the curriculum down to initiatives and activities being conducted in the gym.
In June of 2008, the district began the physical education curriculum renewal process. With the support of administration, we were able to once again add the PA program back into the written curriculum of the high school and reworked the program K-8 in order to increase the focus on building core life skills. With the proximity of the course to the MS, we added a few challenging elements outdoors for the 8th grade to participate in and we also added a traversing wall at WIS (3-5 level) to enhance both programs.
The planning for the course began in earnest in 2009 with the budgeting and engineering process. Project Adventure site evaluation (spring 2009) concluded and reached the following conclusions:
- The remaining wooded areas were not usable, reliable, or safe to build the course.
- The only spot available was the area adjacent to the HS in the back by the parking lot.
- Telephone poles would be needed to build the course due to the lack of healthy trees in the area.
- The site mentioned above was approved by the Wetlands Commission (summer 2009).
- The course would be braced from above due to space constraints and safety for the surrounding areas.
- The course would be budgeted and built in two phases.
- Phase one: pole setting and low elements (November 2010).
- Phase two: installation of high elements, all equipment needed for implementation and the training for the staff (August 2011).
A curricular review of this program and confirmation of positive student growth within the program have been completed each year by the Curriculum Committee of the school system. Project Adventure has enjoyed overwhelming support, by not only the BOE, but the Weston Education Foundation, and school-based PTOs in their philanthropy priorities. Most of all, students are passionate about the program and speak freely about the benefits of having access to such a worthwhile educational experience.
What is seen on the middle school field nearest the high school, is the full complement of the program being re-installed, completely in line with the curricular specifications in 2008 and 2009, and reaffirmed most recently in the 2011-2012 Budget Request, and the Annual Instruction Update, June 2011.
The money, spent over two years, was carefully planned for, as the project was a focus for the district for some time. In terms of costs, the district expended approximately 34K on Project Adventure in FY10-11, and 40K in FY11-12. Both years’ funds were allocated in the original adopted budgets, but the final costs were several thousand higher than anticipated. The BOE did subsequently include the inclusion of the higher elements (poles, etc) to the course. Internal transfers from other accounts provided the small differential from original budgeted numbers.
All the information was discussed over time at the Finance, Curriculum, and Facilities Committee-level meetings which are always open to the public, but also presented to the full BOE at a board meeting. Every avenue was utilized to bring forth all of these issues in a public light.
In summary, there has been a long-time commitment to re-start Project Adventure and install the equipment. Students of all ages have benefited from the engaging, challenging activities of this program as an integral part of the formal education program of the district.