Temple Times Online Edition
    SEPTEMBER 23, 2004
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Challenge course spurs students to

Photo by Elaine Hatala
Tackling an obstacle course as part of Adventure Challenge helped Temple students learn about themselves and each other.

Is there a connection between health and recreation? This July, Temple students tackled an Adventure Challenge course to find out if hanging from ropes 30 feet in the air can actually improve their psychological health.

In the first half of the week-long course, offered through the College of Health Professions’ department of therapeutic recreation, students discussed activity-based, or experiential, therapies in the classroom. But then the books closed and students headed to Camp Edge in southern New Jersey to test classroom theory on themselves and each other.

The class split into two teams and participated in team challenge and high ropes obstacle courses. Students worked out their feelings about trust and risk-taking as they launched toward swinging trapeze bars or sat perched atop wooden telephone poles. The students on the ground took responsibility for those in the air by controlling the safety harnesses for their classmates and by providing encouragement and moral support.

“Learning to trust in oneself and to know what it feels like to trust others is an important and necessary part of psychological health,” said therapeutic recreation professor and Chairman John W. Shank, who explained that recreational therapists use these and similar techniques with clients who are dealing with substance abuse and other issues involving healing and personal growth.

Therapeutic recreation as a profession promotes play and recreation as a means to psychological and physical recovery and health among individuals who are disadvantaged, ill or have disabilities.

But more and more, students from other disciplines, such as communications, physical education and psychology, are finding that the self-discovery, team building and social interaction skills learned while taking the Adventure Challenge course are equally useful in their own lives.

“The activities become metaphors for life. … Rather than talking about what it will be like to face difficult situations like avoiding drinking or working with others in a group, [students] can experience themselves in challenging activities and can immediately step back and examine how they felt and behaved,” Shank said.

- By Tory Harris