Students looking to sign up for an elective that leads beyond the regular classroom should consider Concord High’s outdoor adventure class, ROPE, which has been mixing up the daily routine for 45 years.
ROPE, which stands for Reaching Our Potential in Education, represents an intriguing twist between a classic science class and an outing group.
Students learn useful wilderness survival skills such as what to wear in every type of weather, how and what to eat depending on the length and location of a trip, how to stay warm or cool in changing conditions, and how to deliver first aid in the wilderness.
Along the way, students absorb the practical science behind many of these skills, such as the different ways heat can be transferred off the body and what kind of clothing can protect against which type of transfer.
In cold weather, students learn, too many layers can be just as bad as too few. Wearing too many layers increases the probability of building a sweat layer, which will expedite the transfer of heat from a body.
Too many layers can also restrict blood flow, limiting the ability to keep outer extremities warm. When clothes become too tight, the dead airspace inside their fabric is reduced, negatively impacting their insulating qualities.
ROPE students continue their learning outside of the classroom setting by putting their new skills to the test on four weekend trips throughout each semester-long course.
Spring semester students experience a winter hiking and camping trip, a rock climbing trip, a 70-mile biking trip, and a trip dedicated to community service.
Fall semester ROPE students share many of the same experiences, but the biking trip is replaced by a 27-mile kayaking and canoeing journey.
Many of the lessons learned and the experiences students gain from the class and each trip can be tied back to the core ideology of recognizing potential. To this day, the goals and nature of ROPE has remained the same as when its founder, Tom Herbert founded it in 1975:
“Plus est en Vous is the CHS ROPE motto… it was also the motto of the first Outward Bound school in Aberdovey, Wales. The literal translation is “More is in You”, which means you can do more than you think you can. Your limitations are set by you, not by others. The ‘more’ is not just physical aspects….it includes academic and interpersonal aspects as well. I still hear from students who took ROPE so many years ago describe how ROPE positively impacted their lives,” said Herbert, who taught the course for twenty-five years.
Present leader Frank Harrison is continuing that tradition.
“In ROPE we present the students with a variety of new and challenging experiences. Some of these can be humorous, some physically challenging, and others might be frightening. In all the activities we create a sense of risk and challenge on the part of the students, while providing a safe environment in which we can achieve these tasks,” Harrison said.
“It is our hope that each student will try each activity. Success is relative to where a person starts and finishes, so we can all demonstrate growth. It is through trying that we will see that our limitations are self-imposed and that we can do more than we previously thought we ever could.”
The impact of this program extends far beyond just those who are directly involved. A core goal of ROPE is to show students how finding true inner potential can lead a person to be a better member of the community. This connection is a cornerstone of the program, and a main reason why many members of the community show their support for the program in return.
Said Matt Skoby, an English teacher and three-year assistant leader of ROPE, “The fact that we understand and honor the value of ROPE says a lot about Concord High School.”
The program is currently growing, moving from only one semester-long course per year to two now a couple years in a row.
Skoby regrets that he never participated in ROPE when he was a student at Concord High. He now accompanies the group on every weekend trip and helps to lead and promote the growth of all participants.
It doesn’t take a ROPE leader to appreciate and understand the value of the class. Justin Bourque, another teacher, said the program provides students with opportunities to experience they might never have due to the large barrier that the cost and equipment availability of equipment can present.
Bourque leads the schools rock climbing club, which helps enforce a deep appreciation for all outdoor recreations, along with all the value of ROPE.
In coming weeks students will begin choosing courses for the 2020-2021 school year.
According to the Program of Studies, students who participate in a semester of ROPE will earn 1 credit: 1/2 credit as an elective and 1/2 credit as Physical Education. Students must fill out an application for the course and attend an informational meeting. The semester will also include fundraising responsibilities in addition to the four mandatory trips.