Adventure Education in the MMSD Physical Education Program

Creating a supportive community in the school environment in which students feel safe, supported, and willing to take risks is essential for effective learning to occur. Community is a place in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. They experience a sense of being valued and respected; the children matter to one another and to the teacher. They have come to think in the plural: they feel connected to each other; they are part of an us. (Alfie Kohn 1996)

The adventure program in MMSD is designed to teach students the skills to be able to cooperate and work effectively together across environments, within and outside of school. These skills include the ability to resolve conflicts respectfully, trust one another, and take risks with the support of the group. Problem solving and leadership activities are integrated to develop critical thinking and decision making skills.

The foundations of the adventure program in MMSD include skills in:

  • communication
  • cooperation
  • trust
  • problem solving
  • risk taking
  • leadership.

Each student participates by establishing an understanding of common values/agreements, setting personal and group goals, choosing an appropriate level of challenge and reflecting on their learning experience.

The school environment, replete with daily interaction provides ample opportunity to teach and practice these skills.

Beyond the basic group skills in communication and cooperation, students in an adventure program are encouraged to challenge themselves to try new things with the support of the group. In a safe and trusting environment, many participants in an adventure program discover and display qualities and abilities they may not even be aware that they possess.

Risk and challenge represent key ingredients to facilitate change. Change is the catalyst for student development. Social scientists believe that youth see risk-taking as a way to deal with developmental tasks of young adulthood. (Wurdinger, Steffen 2003)

The adventure program in the Madison Metropolitan School District is designed to provide experiences for students from elementary through high school. The performance standards for adventure are designed to help shape and sequence the adventure curriculum in the school setting. Whenever possible, adventure activities should be designed to enhance all curriculum with community building experiences.