Adventure courses create stress outlet

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October 20, 2009

12:30 AM

Professor Kim Whitley stood only two feet above the ground, balancing on a tightrope, and he had the undivided attention of every student in his adventure games class. He demonstrated the multiline traverse, one of the elements in the low ropes course students must attempt for the class. “How hard can it be?” he said and the students shruged in agreement. Then he took out a blindfold, and the class groaned.

Whitley has been teaching kinesiology courses such as adventure games for over 20 years at the College of William and Mary. Adventure games is one of the many one-credit kinesiology courses at the College. Many students choose these attention-grabbing courses because they look like a fun way to get credits.

“I signed up because it looked like it would be a lot of fun, and it is something that I have always wanted to try,” Lizzy Terrell ’11, a student currently enrolled in rock climbing, said.

Elizabeth Daugherty ’11 enrolled in scuba because she, too, was looking for something challenging that she had never tried before.

Other students like the kinesiology classes like yoga or tai chi for the relaxation period they provide.
“I’m finally taking those fun classes that you can only really take as a senior because they’re so hard to get into,” Emily Wilson ’10, who is taking yoga this semester, said. “I go into class stressed out from midterms or whatever, and I come out feeling like Jell-o — totally loose and ready for whatever comes my way. Yoga just makes everything better.”

The low level of studying and out-of-class work, which differs from most classes at the College, makes these classes appealing to almost every student.

“Clearing my head a few times a week in these classes has really helped me manage all of my commitments,” Max Meadows ’12, who has taken whitewater kayaking and is now enrolled in ballroom dance and self-defense, said.

Although the classes count for academic credit — up to four credits — they provide an escape from the typical classroom setting.

“Getting to go outside and do physical activities, like climbing this giant ropes course filled with obstacles like tire swings and ladders, working with people in a really fun way — it really gets your mind off schoolwork,” Paul Moore ’10 said. “It’s about conquering your own fears and trying new things, which, in general, is a good thing to practice.”

While some students enjoy the courses because they find them relaxing, others enjoy the new and difficult challenges the courses provide. Whitley enjoys helping people find their own level of challenge in the courses he teaches.

“Challenge comes in a lot of different flavors … the idea is to find your challenges and step out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity [for students] to try things they’ve never tried before and find some things about themselves. You find out a lot about yourself when you’re backing over the edge when rappelling and just have a rope holding you.”

All kinesiology classes are held on-campus at locations such as the ropes course in the woods near Lake Mataoka or Adair Gymnasium. Several courses have the additional mandatory off-campus field trips that have always been popular with the students.

“My favorite part [of rock climbing] was the class trip to Shenandoah National Park to climb some of the cliffs out there,” Terrell said.

Most of the classes that teach skills to enjoy or explore natural settings host these field trips, most of which are in-state.

“We went on a weekend trip to a lake in central Virginia,” Daugherty said. “The lake is specifically set up for scuba diving and has cool stuff underwater, like an airplane and a basketball court.”

Most kinesiology courses do fill up quickly because of their limited time commitment and fun activities, so instructors advise students to plan ahead if they wish to sign up for the course.

Even though these classes are a fun change from typical classes at the College, students do have some complaints.

“My least favorite part is the attendance policy,” Wilson said. “I think we’re only allowed to miss two classes because our grade is primarily based upon attendance. So you pretty much have to show up to class or else you fail.”

But Whitley believes that the attendance policy is more than fair.

“We want [students] to have a good time … but we make [them] earn [their] college credit,” he said. “There’s more to it then you imagine — there’s interaction with outdoors, other students and the elements that physically and mentally challenge you.”

Others are disappointed by the enrollment fee, which varies depending on the course and is based on location, traveling and equipment and safety requirements.

“The additional course fee, I think, is about $200,” Daugherty said about her scuba class. “The weekend trip costs another $20 to $50.”

Kaley Horton ’10, who is currently taking self-defense, encourages other students at the College to enroll in kinesiology classes because she feels they are a great stress outlet in a safe environment.

“[These classes] allow you to pursue different interests and skills safely, and as an added bonus you get college credit,” she said. “They also generally require little time commitment, which makes fitting them in your schedule very feasible.”

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