Learning can be an adventure and that was never truer than at Lufkin Road Middle School.
School staff and students joined local VIPs last week at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Adventure Education Challenge Course.
Located on a one-acre lot of wooded land adjacent to the school, the 11-station course offers numerous physical and mental challenges meant to enhance a variety of different skills.
The course is part of the Adventure Education curriculum that physical education teacher Jennie Jones has sought to bring to Lufkin Road for several years.
“Today’s students need to be so well rounded,” said Lufkin Road Principal Karen Sinders. “The academics are important but so are the social skills and communication components. This will only enhance (those attributes) for our students here at Lufkin.”
Jones and physical education teacher Rob Weidenburner proposed the idea to school administrators last year. The school’s PTA and athletic boosters raised $42,000 for the project in just one school year.
“Our principal at the time, Dr. (Parry) Graham, was extremely excited and gave us some direction,” said Jones. “It took about a year to get everything together and the PTA and athletic boosters were just amazing.”
Jones felt having the unique program would benefit the students in many ways. The course demands students work as a team or they will fail to achieve success.
“For middle school age kids, relationships are a big factor in their development,” said Jones. “This particular Adventure Education curriculum really helps to mold and strengthen relationships built on trust. It also helps develop leadership and communication skills and it helps teach kids about success and failure and how to work through those things.
“It can be quite physically challenging as well, which gives it that physical fitness quality. You often hear about the 21st century worker and the skills they need. I think this helps achieve the qualities and characteristics we are looking for in today’s students and workers.”
Sinders was among seven Lufkin staff members who underwent training on the course. Challenges included crossing obstacles using only a certain number of boards and a balance board that requires efficient teamwork.
She said the experience showed her how beneficial the course will be to students.
“We are all, by human nature, a little competitive,” said Sinders. “But this is not all about ‘me’ and you can see that when you get out there. When I first did the training I thought, ‘Okay, how do I get to the other side?’ Then you quickly realize, ‘Okay, we have to get the (entire team) to the other side without falling off the board.’ So you learn to communicate and think outside of the box. It teaches so many life skills that students will need as adults, which will help them become successful.”
Lufkin Road plans to eventually open the course to local businesses, schools, civic groups and organizations. It will also be used for team-building programs among Lufkin Road teachers.
“Hopefully, the whole community will benefit from this,” said Jones. “We will definitely be reaching out to people, letting them know what we have here.”