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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Ninth-graders learn teamwork on ropes course
Students learn life lessons from participation
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Courtesy Photo: Ninth-graders at Franklin County High School learn teamwork while walking a tightrope at Ferrum College’s low ropes course.

Monday, November 11, 2013

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

A group of ninth graders at Franklin County High School recently visited Ferrum College's Low Ropes Challenge Course.

"It was a great experience intended to help the students bond and to help them see how they fit into the bigger environment at the high school," said special education teacher C.D. White.

Academies are designed for ninth-grade students who would benefit from extra help with the transition from middle to high school, White said. The classes students take in the ninth-grade academies are no different from the classes in which other students are enrolled.

Academy students take three of their classes, English 9, World History I and Earth Science, on a year-round schedule, instead of on a block schedule.

The academies were created at the high school seven or eight years ago, White said.

"In fact, all ninth-graders used to be part of an academy at one time," he added. "It's a way to help transition students from the middle school to the high school. It gives students more structure and offers more flexibility. It also helps them bond with each other."

The September trip to the ropes course was one way White's academy students begin forming bonds with each other.

"It was an educational and fun experience that, I believe, everyone should have a chance to do," said academy student Brendan Perdue. "I think we all work better as a team after this experience. It has brought us all closer together."

The 42 students in the group separated into four groups and spent the day learning the course and participating in group activities, designed to teach leadership and listening skills, trust, teamwork and ways to face their fears.

"We've learned to work together no matter how hard the problem may be," said academy student Samantha Linkous. "We have a respect for each other now. I've gotten to know new people whom I didn't already know."

After the trip, students are asked questions to relate the experience to their classroom lessons.

"This trip is meant to be fun, but we always try to relate the situations back to what are doing in school," White said. "Even though the students participated in activities as a small group, they learned they are part of a larger group. It's like that at school. The academies are a small group, but part of the large student body at the high school. We want them to learn how to take what's learned in the small group and apply it to the large group."

White said the academies also focus on bullying and how they, as an academy, can influence the rest of the school.

"Though we focus on the academies, we also focus on building our young people for life," said White. "It's all about the kids figuring it out. It's not what we can teach them, but what they can teach themselves."

High school students have been making the trip to Ferrum's low ropes course for five years now, but usually the trip is made in the spring.

"This year we went in September, and we plan to go again in the spring to the high ropes course," said White. "Every time we go, the kids are elated and talk about it for days. They really enjoy it and can't wait to go back and do it again."

The trips are paid for by fundraisers throughout the year and help from academy teachers Cheryl Shepherd, Mike Meredith, Melody Oliver, Shelly Patrick, Brie Smith and White.

 
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