I might have stayed in the Girl Scouts until completing my Silver Award, but in many ways, the Boy Scouts left a much bigger impression on my life. I grew up going to a BSA Learning for Life day camp that also offered a Wilderness School, a week-long backpacking and team building program run using Project C.O.P.E. principles. I attended these programs for as long as I could as a camper, and was then asked to shadow facilitators and help on rock climbing and high ropes sites until I was running programs both with staff partners and on my own.
C.O.P.E. stands for Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience and is a Boy Scouts of America program with historical ties to Outward Bound, Project Adventure, and NORJAM. The program uses group initiative games, trust events, and low and high ropes courses to challenge individuals and groups in a myriad of ways. Programs also focus on development of groups and individuals in eight areas: communication, teamwork, planning, trust, self-esteem, decision making, leadership, and problem solving. The day starts with icebreakers and slowly builds in challenge and risk to high ropes events, with “debriefs,” structured conversations focusing on both group and self-reflection after each event.
I was lucky to become involved in this programming when I was very young and luckier still to find ways to apply the experiential education principles embedded in C.O.P.E programming in other areas of my life, from both the way I teach and communicate, to my future academic aspirations. Part of what I aim to do is work with other facilitators to find ways to translate this experience into classrooms and communities without relying on the adventure component to create challenges and spark conversations and reflection. It is my thought that literature can become that bridge, and so be used for conflict resolution and community building in different areas. This was the idea behind my project as a Rotary Scholar in Edinburgh, and remains a passion and an academic interest.