Today we facilitated a low-ropes course here at Mother Lode. This time, our group is from a nearby community, a class of at-risk teens. Our goal is to help create a better working and team environment for them. They naturally arrange themselves by gender; the boys stand by themselves on one side of the grass, the girls on the other, as though there’s a line of fire between them which only they can see. By and large, they are all strangers to one another, and our course is being used as an ice-breaker to move forward with for the next few months of class. We start by asking them to take the hand of the person next to them, and immediately the boys, who were so comfortable a moment before, suddenly shift away from one another, now unsure of the boundaries which were so apparent moments earlier. It’s challenge by choice, of course, but they press forward and (with only a little cajoling), take one another’s hands. The course begins; hand in hand we press forward to meet the concerns of the larger group need.
Through the duration of our courses we find that the group dynamics can shift even in a few hours with the creation of a safe and expressive space for our students. Everyone from troubled kids to corporate groups can benefit from the ropes course, and our courses can make working together a less challenging space. Successful groups walk away from Mother Lode understanding each other better, and with tools for better group interactions in the future.
As an organization and workplace, we constantly strive to bring the best out in each group, and as a result, the types of groups that find our program successful vary widely in their backgrounds, but not in their results. In the past our Ropes Course participants have included small companies looking to create better team dynamics, at-risk youth groups, and private school Montessori students among others. Each team has come to Mother Lode with a simple but essential task: how to work together better. For some, this has meant that we have focused on team building activities through incorporating our low-ropes programming, which for many activities does not require leaving the ground! For other groups the team building element has been intertwined with the individual and group trust required for climbing the higher elements throughout our course.
As always at Mother Lode, safety is the bottom line, both physically and emotionally. Through group initiatives, problem solving, and leadership in our outdoor classroom, we develop a pathway for participants to see potential for themselves even through the challenges that fear can create for them. Our ‘challenge by choice’ philosophy allows students to stop at the point which works for them individually, within the group dynamic. After each activity we debrief, allowing both the students and the facilitators a chance to further discuss and identify the particular focuses of the exercises. This creates an environment where ideas ‘click’ into place for all participants.
The Ropes Courses at Mother Lode provide an outdoor group experience that benefits all creating a safe and effective learning experience, and we look forward to leading you and your group here sometime soon!