MAILED: July 3, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- One of the largest ropes courses in Wisconsin was recently built behind Crest Wellness Center on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's upper campus.
Construction of the ropes course began in May and was completed in mid-June, said Allen Wiberg, recreation specialist.
The "Challenge Ropes Course" program will provide an unusual teaching environment, where diverse populations can experience varying amounts of physical, mental and emotional risks, its creators say.
The mission of the program is to concentrate on individual and group skill development by attempting a series of activities within a supportive group atmosphere. By the nature of their participation, users develop skills in problem solving, leadership, communication, decision making, trust building, team work, and a strong sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
The program was designed for diverse populations ranging from children to people with physical disabilities, Wiberg said. The course doesn't prohibit anyone from participating. Everyone can experience what it's like to be 30 feet in the air, he said.
"No one is going to be isolated (from the group)," Wiberg said.
The ropes course allows each person to meet a goal with group support, he said. It helps people support one another with encouragement.
"You do what you feel you can do," he said. "That's what's rewarding for you."
UW-Eau Claire's course features two types of elements - high elements and low elements.
The high elements are located 20 to 30 feet off the ground. Usually two people work on the high elements together, developing team work and communication skills, Wiberg said. Equipment includes safety harnesses when working on high elements.
When working with the high elements, facilitators try to invoke fear in the participants of being 30 feet above the ground, he said. The idea is to see progression as time goes on.
"If they want to come down they can," he said.
Someone who might not be ready to do a certain activity at the beginning of the course might want to try it toward the end, Wiberg said. If that occurs the group will go back to the element and encourage the individual.
"It's going to build self-confidence and be self-fulfilling," he said.
Groups using the low elements, which are two or three feet off the ground, use techniques of spotting to prevent falling, he said. When working on the low elements, the group is presented with a problem and it must work together on how to solve it, he said.
There are 34 facilitators, made up of students, faculty, staff and community members. One or two facilitators work with each group, Wiberg said.
There are three programs in which a group can participate. The long program, which lasts six to seven hours, includes activities on the high and low elements. The other two programs consist of four-hour workshops on either the high or the low elements.
An ideal size for a group is 16 people but facilitators can take any number of people in a group, he said.
"It's going to be a tremendous program for the university," Wiberg said.
For more information, call University Recreation at (715) 836-3377
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 7, 1997