A challenging course is like a big obstacle course with one big difference. There is an intentional curriculum for each element to produce personal growth. Each element of the challenge course requires participants to experience some level of difficulty.
The participants are encouraged to lean into the difficulty and work through whatever emotions that arise; they grow personally. At Camp Sonshine, we feel our challenge course helps campers face their fears and to work through the “challenge task” with the support of their group. Learning to feel the fear and move ahead is a powerful life-changing experience.
From climbing high up a zip line to having your group pull you up on the Tarzan Swing there is always the conscious use of metaphor going on in the background. We have found the elements in a challenge course bring great understanding into themselves and fellow campers and then they can use that new understanding to discover new strengths within themselves. The element helps each participant learn how to be a great team member.
Challenge courses also take fun to a new level. There is a type of fun from going on an amusement park ride. However, that fun leaves no room for personal challenge or variation. It is a carefully scripted experience that is the same for most participants. However, since there is an intentional curriculum with challenge course elements-it is fun with a bonus. A participant can not only experience the thrill of gliding through the air on a zip line but learn about how to deal with a fear of heights and learn to rely on others to help you launch out despite one’s fears.
We like to say, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” However, it is important to note it is always challenged by choice. A good challenge course instructor will never force or manipulate anyone but gently encourage each one to take the next step. An important part is the debriefing period.
After the activity where each one can be celebrated for their own level of growth. The debrief period also helps participants learn how the experience can help them put the lessons learned to good use in school and in their homes.
So the answer is YES–Challenge courses run by the right instructors can change a participant’s life and can be a great positive memory that will last a lifetime.