Here at Pecometh, when you stand between Talley House and the Dining Hall, you can see the high stand-alone tower associated with the Challenge Course. Over the past 15 years, many groups have gone through the course and have learned much that can be applied to everyday life.
I met Dan Ashe, Pecometh's Challenge Course Manager on a recent windy Thursday, and over the course of the next two hours, he explained to me what the course is all about and how it’s helped so many. We started at the tower.
“What do you think is the goal here, Ron?”
“To get to the top.”
Dan replied, “You can go to Six Flags or Hersheypark for that.”
While we were looking up at the tower, he explained the various goals (challenge, guaranteed, and others) of the program used on the course.
When Dan was getting this course together in the late 90s, he wanted to reframe the whole course concept…that it wasn’t just about getting to the top or getting through an activity.
He uses a set of tools that includes low elements (those that are up to a few feet off the ground) and the high elements (where participants are harnessed in) as well.
These tools are used in different ways.
He pointed out that hammers are not just used to hammer in nails...
...but they’re also used to pull those nails out.
With regard to the tower, most of the learning occurs on the ground, before team members are even harnessed in.
In the in-depth process of building teams, Dan asks team members that come to the course:
What is the goal that you want to accomplish?
The goal that you can guarantee, to both yourself and others, that you will achieve?
Dan also teaches challenge goals, and in doing so, communicates to team members that they need to be deliberate in what they do in life, as well as on this course, and that your word matters.
Support is taught in detail here, and as one is climbing to what their goal on the tower is, the rest of the team down on the ground are providing the specific support requested by the climber.
That could mean quiet support, coaching, or loud cheering, depending on what the climber would be comfortable with.
All involved are collaborating between the climber and those on the ground. Negotiation between climber and team is so important here, and definitely a team skill.
Again, getting to the top of the tower is not the goal.
When the climber comes down, the application continues. “Now that you’ve seen what you can do here, how can your fellow team members support you in reaching your goals back at the office, or in other areas of your life?”
Always living and learning…
Dan then took me through the wooded part of the course and showed me some of the low-lying and mid-level elements, including a tire that was about 6 feet off the ground, and tied in four places to two nearby trees.
The objective is to hoist the person through and in some daring cases, over the tire to the other side.
Again, it’s a lesson in cooperation and developing trusting bonds in teams. It also helps with learning accountability and how to think critically in various situations.
One of the other elements that caught my attention was the Whale Watch, which looks like a big see-saw. This is where one or more persons stands in the middle, and keeps it evenly balanced.
If you go too close to the edge, the whole apparatus gets thrown out of whack, and becomes very unstable.
Definitely a lesson in balancing everything that life throws at us.
Dan went on to describe what the course really accomplishes:
"When corporate or organizational teams come to a classroom to learn about new ways to get along and team-build, they bring all their “stuff” with them.
Within one hour, my team and I can find out what that “stuff” is and how it can be dealt with. Everything is exposed on the course.”
Through an experiential education approach, the main goal is bringing what was learned on the course (working as a team, trust, problem-solving, etc.) and applying it to the real world...
...whether that be for a middle-school youth group or a church confirmation class, the members of a small business, or those involved in a corporate office setting.
“You must communicate and collaborate. Then, you can problem-solve and build trust in your team."
"There’s really a true nuance that comes with communication. Team-building is a detailed process, and it’s not all about the harnesses, ropes and tires that you see on the course.”
It’s also a lesson in faith, and how lives are changed on a one-to-one basis. Mine certainly was changed that day, and I’m sure your team will be changed, as well.
For much more on how your team can experience the Challenge Course at Pecometh, check our our Challenge Course FAQs.
We look forward to seeing you on the Course!
Physical Address: 401 Jack Elliot Way, Centreville, MD 21617 * 410-556-6900