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Building Positive Learning CulturesThrough Adventure

Project Adventure Partners with Lawrence Family Education Development Fund to Create Strong Community at SISU Education Center LAWRENCE, Mass., January 30, 2018 Since 1971, Project Adventure (PA) has been providing quality curriculum and professional development that yields tremendous results for student and faculty learning. We do this by embedding the core competencies of social and emotional learning into each of our activities. As we move forward, we are afforded more opportunities to share that learning with school-wide programs, like the work we continue to do with Lawrence Family Development, Inc. The Lawrence Family Education Development Fund (LFDEF) offers a variety of alternative youth programs for Lawrence area young people ages 16-24 all housed under their new SISU Education Center. At SISU, they are offered a positive youth development approach creating a welcoming and supportive environment for young people most of whom struggle with a mentality of feeling and being told they are “not good enough.” The programs are developed and delivered in collaboration with YouthBuild, the City of Lawrence, and area funding organizations.  Two years ago, the LFDEF staff believed that their teachers and counselors could be equipped with more effective group facilitation pedagogy and skills that would more deeply engage and motivate their audiences in learning. They also wanted to build a strong culture and shared mission and understanding, so they engaged in a partnership with PA. Some of their goals were to introduce all staff to PA methods with a primary emphasis on community building, to advance their mindsets from being just a teacher to having a role in advancing the broader alternative youth program vision, and to build community and agree upon norms. The work done by Larry Childs and Laura MacDonald was guided by these goals and questions like, “How do our current norms merge to create a truly safe place where all youth can feel safe, inspired, and know they belong?” With their goals in mind, the staff celebrated ways of working together through adventure activities, and as all teams do, they came up against some behaviors that created obstacles to their vision of SISU.  Experiencing these obstacles made their learning tangible and allowed them the space to work through the areas where they struggled. They used everyday objects to represent their work such as safety glasses to symbolize the value of having a vision as an organization and as individuals. The SISU staff continues to practice using adventure methodology, guiding reflective learning and exploring ways to develop social and emotional skills like self-management, responsible decision-making, conflict resolution, and positive risk-taking in the context of Challenge by Choice.  Adventure levels the playing field for everyone and creates a necessary space to evaluate the way things were, the way things are, and the way things could be. Contact us to see how implementing school-wide programs can transform the culture of your learning community.

Things I Learned From My Wife

My wife is a 10th-grade school teacher in a small NH town. Last night, she told me a story about ‘Billy,’ a student who is not academically outstanding and often creates behavioral problems in class. Well, that morning, like many mornings, he came in late to class, and instead of issuing a stern warning, she smiled and asked if he would wait a moment after class. Once class ended, she decided to take a new approach to Billy and ask, “How are you today?” Instead of shrugging her off, he opened up and told her he had a bad night because of some poor decisions he made. His family was upset with him and he only slept about an hour all night which is why he missed the bus and arrived late. Billy then thanked her for not yelling at him and said that most of his teachers never take the time to ask. My wife quickly realized that he needed help beyond her and had his guidance counselor follow up with him. How often are we given the opportunity to reach out and be compassionate? More importantly, how often do we allow ourselves to do so? All that could be seen in the beginning was that Billy walked into class late. What my wife found out was that he needed significantly more help than that, and would continue to need support throughout that day and possibly much longer. The reality of the situation was that Billy was already suffering consequences far beyond being late to school. So much so that he couldn’t find a release at home. It is so easy to judge and dismiss behavior as willful disregard, but compassion leaves judgment behind. Compassion opens the door to healing while recognizing the behavior for what it is: simply another opportunity to grow. A mentor of mine once told me, and I’m paraphrasing because it was a long time ago “All kids come to us with baggage. We don’t know what it might be, but it shows up in their mood, their behavior, their interactions with adults, and it shows up without them knowing how or why. If you’re good, you may be able to guess a little about their baggage, and if you’re lucky, they may tell you about it. The one thing one thing we as educators cannot afford to do is to judge them because of how they present the baggage.”   Post created by Mike Sallade

The Importance of Being a Mentor

Among the many roles Camille Oosterman takes on at Project Adventure, one of them is a mentor. Even though she may not always feel like she has an impact on the lives of students she only spends six hours a day with, she does. As a co-worker, it's hard not to have her energy, enthusiasm, and kindness rub off on you.  Here's her story. In my mind, there’s a big difference between being a mentor and being a role-model, but both are equally important for students who are still figuring out their role in society. Being a role-model takes some, but minimal, effort. It involves being present and a force for good that others can easily see. Being a mentor is significantly more challenging. There’s a delicate balance between offering support versus influencing choice. Two years ago, I worked with a school from Salem, MA for a single six-hour day. I had no idea that I would make a deeper connection with one of those students. Her name is Anna, and she is amazing. When Anna first joined the Leaders In Training (LIT) program, a summer program at Project Adventure for high school students who then become role models to younger campers, she was very quiet and seemingly introspective. I quickly came to discover that a lot of this was attributed to shyness, and as she assessed her surroundings and the group she was a part of, she began to open up and reveal this insightful and funny young woman. It was wonderful to get to know her during this time and understand the sort of information she needed to explore future leadership roles. Anna evolved into the person I now know during the week with the campers. She has an instinct for facilitation that simply cannot be taught, so when she asked me about the YCP internship, I gave her as much information as possible. I knew what a valuable experience the internship had been for me, and I wanted to provide Anna with that opportunity and more. It is difficult for me to try to take any credit for Anna’s success. I truly believe that her own drive and nature allowed her to choose these experiences and grow as an empathetic individual. However, I have been there through every step of her process. When she asked for my opinion, I have given it willingly and as a mentor, I aimed to offer as much information as possible without swaying her in any particular direction. I know that Anna will make whatever choice is best for her and that she knows I am always ready to offer guidance and support. Choose to be that person who does the right thing, who says the kind word, who changes the course of one person's day. If you put forth the effort once, you'll make a bigger difference in the world around you than you thought you would.  



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Project Adventure has been building adventure programs on challenge courses since 1971. Having installed thousands of courses in all 50 states and more than 20 countries, our experience in comprehensive program design is unparalleled in the industry.

Challenge Course Design & Installation

Project Adventure has facilitated thousands of transformative training workshops and custom programs for professionals in the worlds of education, business and human services who want to cultivate the skills, behaviors, and relationships necessary to actualize their mission.​

Training & Consulting

Since 1971, Project Adventure has been designing and facilitating transformative experiential adventure programs for students and athletes from elementary through graduate school. After learning about you, our Youth & College Programs (YCP) Specialists will create a customized experience that will help your group achieve its unique goals.​

Youth & College Programs

Project Adventure's "hands-on" SEL (social and emotional learning) programming allows children and adults to learn and experience critical social and emotional skills. Our programs promote the teaching and application of social and emotional competencies through engaged, experiential learning activities.

Social and Emotional Learning