In The News

Syracuse teacher helps launch new indoor high ropes course in Liverpool by Sapna Kollali / The Post-Standard

Monday June 08, 2009, 10:15 AM

The Adventure Center, housed inside the Liverpool Community Church, runs a ropes program. Jafonte Johnson of Syracuse, Cathy Griffin of Baldwinsville and Melodie Landers of Syracuse climbed their way inside what is called the Bird's Nest.

The Syracuse chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters program helped inaugurate the new indoor high ropes facilities at The Adventure Center in Liverpool this weekend. Big Brothers Big Sisters matches children in need of mentors, called "littles," with willing adults, called "bigs."

"It's a great experience for the 'littles' to learn about teamwork and cooperation," said Cathy Griffin, program assistant for Big Brothers Big Sisters. "And the matches get to interact with other matches when they would normally do things on their own."

Those traits are the core of ropes courses and centers. Through group-based physical activities and challenges, participants practice teamwork, leadership and life skills, said Tom Gardner, director of The Adventure Center, a nonprofit business based in the Zogg Building in Liverpool. 

For about four years, Gardner has run the center with low-level and ground-level activities only. Last month, Gardner and his partner, Syracuse teacher Ken Miller, finished installing aerial stations for mid-air activities.

Students climb a cargo net at The Adventure Center in Liverpool, the area's newest high ropes activity center

There are several outdoor high ropes centers in Central New York, but Miller said there hasn't been an indoor facility for about 10 years, when a LaFayette center closed.

"The weather really put a damper on when we could bring people out," said Miller, the center's co-director who coordinates one of Syracuse's alternative education programs. "Now it's available year-round. It could be 25 below and snowing outside, but we'll be here in shorts."

Miller and Gardner, a retired Syracuse teacher, both previously taught at Grant Middle School and became interested in adventure programming for students. They also run an outdoor ropes course at A in Syracuse, and Gardner also has a business called Team Adventure.

For about 13 years, they ran adventure in-service training for fellow Syracuse teachers, and they have taken teacher groups on adventure retreats to the Adirondacks. They also work with adult and corporate groups.

This fall, they plan to teach a graduate level elective course in Le Moyne College's education department on incorporating adventure curriculum into the classroom.

"We saw the difference it made for us as teachers, for our students, for other teachers," Gardner said. "This is something we really believe in and want to teach to others."