New London High School has one of the oldest Adventure Clubs in Wisconsin, passing its 31st year this year. It was the brainchild of Jorene Ziebell, a physical education teacher here in New London. She brought experiential education into the school by starting out with a camping unit for students. Ziebell wrote grants that brought in climbing equipment and built a challenge course. Ziebell retired two years ago, handing the reins to former student and new teacher Tiffany Schulz.
“I really admired Jorene and knew I wanted to be involved in the course after high school,” recalls Schulz, who came back many times during college to help Ziebell with her class. It’s called Adventure Class, and it is a credited course, offered as an alternative to a typical physical education class.
“I knew I wanted to teach this course,” said Schulz. She enrolled at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin and received a Bachelors of Science Degree in Physical Education and Adventure Education. She was happy that her first teaching assignment landed her in here. She brought a ready knowledge of the program to her job, something that made the transition between Ziebell and Schulz very easy.
Schulz now incorporates the environmental impact of outdoor recreation into the course. “We don’t just go outside and have fun, we learn about our processes first. I assign book reports, written tests and other writing into the curriculum.”
Over the past 31 years the equipment and opportunities have grown. The class now has a rock climbing wall, an indoor and outdoor challenge course, snow shoes, cross country skiis, sleds, bicycles and canoes. A camping section includes back packs, mapping and compass instruction. A survival and shelter building section is part of the curriculum, too.
Team building and group work are basic traits that Schulz emphases every chance she gets.
There are two class levels for Adventure. In Adventure I, the basic skills are taught, with an emphasis on team building and leadership. The class attends a caving field trip.
Adventure II includes much more outdoor recreation skill building, with bicycling, shelter building, and survival sports like rock climbing. “In Adventure II you have already learned rock climbing in the first class and take it further by setting a route and getting more experience in. The whole thing is designed to increase skills through the two levels,” explains Schulz.
With such a large following of this course in the schools, many students had expressed an interest in having a club that meets once a week or so, and practices the things taught in class. “I was thrilled when the kids came to me about a club,” admits Schulz. “But I wasn’t going to be the one doing all the work. I gave them the paperwork to do and they got it done. It’s been great to see them take ownership of the idea. We’re having lots of fun now.”
The club meets in the gymnasium when it’s available. They do top roping, on a rope with an anchor system or bouldering, a shorter climb. “We have 30 paid members of the club now,” added Schulz. “That’s really gratifying to see.” Members have a small club fee that helps to pay for materials needed. “It’s all student driven now, and they do a good job.”
The students want to share the fun with the public, too. Saturday, May 7 they are hosting a Rock Climbing Competition at the school. The public is welcome to come out and observe, or join in both bouldering and rock climbing categories, offered to youth, men’s and women’s categories. It’s a fundraiser for the group, allowing them to go to Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo to climb the bluffs. A raffle and concessions will round out the event. “We’re just charging $3 for children up to 13 who want to climb, and that starts at noon,” said Schulz. Anyone ages 14 and up can compete in the open competition at 2 p.m. for just $5, and an advanced competition will take place at 5 p.m. for those who are experience climbers. Again, the cost is $5. “We hope people will come out of curiosity and also to support the fundraiser,” said Schulz. To register before the event, call Tiffany Schulz at 920-982-8420, ext. 1105.