The Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School

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A ropes course consists of a variety of challenging outdoor activities that may include low and/or high elements designed to promote personal and team development. Low elements take place on or slightly above the ground. High elements are constructed in trees or utility poles and require a belay for safety.

It is unclear when or where the first ropes course was created. However, it is known that obstacle courses were used in ancient Greece to train soldiers. George Herbert is recognized among modern practitioners as the innovator who added belay and risk management systems to create what he referred to as the “Natural Method.” A naval officer, he used many of the obstacles found on the decks of sailing ships to

create elements that are still in use today. In fact, ropes and challenge courses throughout French Canada and Europe are known as “Herbertism” courses.

Marble, Colorado is the site of the first Outward Bound course recognized as the first in the USA. There is evidence that our military was using similar commando style courses prior to World War II, and possibly ropes style courses at New England camps as early as the 1920’s. But since the 1960’s, ropes course sophistication has evolved considerably. Hemp ropes have been replaced with wire rope, many belays replaced by friction devices, and climbing harnesses to manage what were before unmanageable risks.

Modern ropes courses must be built to strict industry accepted standards. All elements and equipment must be inspected yearly to reduce the risks to end users and to the natural environments in which they exist. We are very proud of the Ropes Course at The Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School and look forward to making a cadet's time with us both fun and memorable.

Low Elements

The low ropes elements are viewed as our “we” development. They consist of real and imaginary obstacles designed to challenge groups and individuals to work together to accomplish tasks. We address socialization skills, inhibitions, and differences. The cadets work to solve problems, communicate, and develop trust amongst the group.  The elements also challenge cadets physically through tests of strength, stamina, agility, balance, as well as flexibility. Cadets experience a variety of emotional issues while navigating the elements such as fear of falling,  fear of failure, and loss of control. Cadets work through these fears in a safe, controlled, supportive, and supervised environment. High Elements

Our high elements are for “me” development. It is on the high ropes elements that the cadet will experience the thrill and adrenaline rush of being high up in the air. It presents an opportunity to challenge fears within the perception of danger. So often, participants are determined not to attempt the obstacle out of a fear of height, ladders, falling, etc. only to be coerced/ persuaded by their fellow cadets and/or their facilitator to at least “give it your best shot.” It is most gratifying to see the expressions on the faces of those who have tempted fate to accomplish things previously thought undoable, to know that nothing is beyond their means if they have faith and follow prescribed instruction, and believe in themselves and their abilities.  Accomplishments gained on the Ropes Course often translate into greater accomplishment in the classroom for many of our cadets. 

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