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Discovery Adventure Course sees good results in first months

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Discovery Adventure Course, Bethel College’s recent addition to its community-building resources, has passed a milestone of having more than 300 people use it.

The course, which opened late last summer, just before the start of the 2010-11 school year, had its origin with former Vice President of Student Life Aaron Chappell-Deckert’s vision and a Bethel agreement with soda vending companies.

“Bethel College has historically entered contractual relationships with a soft drink company,” said Chad Childs, current vice president of student life. “The [profits] have been designated for use by either the athletic department or Student Life, for the purposes of improving wellness and supporting students.

“In 2009, we were entering our first year in a multi-year contract with Pepsi. With funds from this contract and some additional funding from Student Life, we were able to build the adventure course and pay for training facilitators.”

Bethel formed a partnership for Discovery Adventure Course with Next Element LLC, a local firm that does consulting in group- and team-building. In addition, many hours of volunteer work from various members of the Bethel College community went into building the course.

“[Faculty and staff] from the athletic department, residence life and maintenance, plus community volunteers, alumni and Next Element staff participated in a facilitated building process in January 2010,” under the direction of experienced adventure course designer Tom Leahy of Lafayette, Colo., Childs said.

“We continued working on the development and building of the course elements throughout the spring semester of 2010,” Childs continued. “Facilitator training took place over 10 days, and we opened for business in summer 2010. The partnership with Next Element expanded to a three-agency partnership that now includes Newton USD 373. We have trained facilitators from all three communities.”

By the end of the fall semester, more than 300 people had been through the adventure course, both Bethel and outside groups. Bethel groups that have taken advantage of the course so far have been the cross-country team, Student Senate, the resident assistants and resident directors, and the students who live in one of the halls in the Haury Hall residence.

Response has been very positive, says Childs.

“The adventure course is off to a great start. Now we would like to engage more current Bethel students in experiences on the course. We have plans for organizing opportunities for all new students next fall during orientation.

“Groups that have shared adventures on the course have offered very positive feedback so far,” he adds. “It has been difficult to keep up with all the groups that have been interested in using the course.”

Haury Hall resident assistant Lindsey Waltner, sophomore from Freeman, S.D., had a wonderful first experience with Discovery Adventure Course.

“I had never done one before, but I really, really liked it,” she says. “When they were explaining the [elements], some of them sounded kind of difficult, but they challenged you and made you come out of your shell.”

Waltner, a member of Bethel’s women’s basketball team, adds that she’d like to see the team do the course together next year.

Unexpected challenges with the course so far have included the occasional snake, as well honeysuckle trying to take over the cleared spaces in the hedgerow areas near the Sand Creek Trail trailhead and Goering Hall, but overall Student Life staff is pleased with DAC’s success.

For more information about Discovery Adventure Course, including fees and how to schedule use for your group, see www.bethelks.edu/currentstudents/studentlife/discovery/.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is in the first tier in its category in the “U.S. News & World Report” annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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