A commitment to provide all students with the necessary skills to thrive as 21st century learners, workers and citizens.
2512 George Mason Drive • P.O. Box 6038 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456-0038   757.263.1000 • 757.263.1240 TDD

What is The Challenge Works?
Virginia Beach City Public Schools' Ropes and Initiatives Course

The Challenge Works offers adventure-based experiential education programs to students in grades six through 12 and to staff members from throughout the Virginia Beach school division. Through group games and problem-solving scenarios, as well as through tackling personal challenges, students apply skills required for success in the 21st century. Students quickly recognize how the use of these skills impacts team and individual success beyond expectations.  Course programs are designed to enhance students’ abilities to:

  • Communicate by listening to and sharing ideas with others;
  • Collaborate with others to achieve group goals;
  • Demonstrate social responsibility by using integrity, empathy and compassion;
  • Recognize the impact of an individual’s actions on teammates, as well as the impact of the team on an individual’s desire and ability to achieve;
  • Show appreciation for the natural environment; and
  • Experience healthy risk-taking.

The Challenge Works provides programs at schools and at a Challenge Course located on the Renaissance Academy campus (5100 Cleveland Street). Sessions can last from 1hour to multiple days and can be tailored to meet the needs and objectives of teacher/leaders and group members.

Program Activities:
Challenge course programs typically use a combination of field games, low events that involve climbing 1 – 12 feet off the ground with support of teammates, and high challenges that require participants to wear harnesses and helmets if they choose to climb up to 40 feet while attached to safety gear.  Events are sequenced to help participants navigate group development stages.  Initial games help group members become comfortable with each other.  Through field games and solution-seeking activities – sometimes called “initiatives” – group members sort out shared values and expectations for group interaction.  Low events focus on the individual’s responsibility to the group.  These problem-solving activities help group members discover each person’s contributions as they communicate, collaborate, define group goals, make shared decisions, and support each other.  The group can explore the team’s responsibility for the individual while using high elements.  Some high elements include walking across telephone poles or cables suspended between trees or telephone poles.

Program Process:
The activities, alone, don’t necessarily “make” the challenge “work.” Throughout the program, facilitators typically teach decision-making techniques and monitor or guide group processing.  The experiential education process used at The Challenge Works helps participants create knowledge through sharing an experience, reflecting on it, drawing meaning from it, and then applying that knowledge to additional experiences. As challenge course programs draw to a close, group members share insights and discoveries from the day and discuss ways to apply the experience to the classroom or other situations. Each session on the course reviews and builds upon the experiences offered in previous sessions. Students who attend the course several times find that activities offered are more challenging than those previously encountered and accomplished.

How do students access the program?
School division teachers, staff and coaches schedule student groups for Challenge Works programs with the site facilitator. While all student groups are welcomed, an emphasis is placed on serving students enrolled in alternative education, special education, vocational education, and academy programs. The Challenge Works also has been active in training students involved with leadership programs, athletic teams, and clubs. Students attending the course are required to provide a completed Participation Agreement and Liability Release Form and a completed Health Information Sheet.

Is transportation provided to and from the Ropes and Initiatives Course?
Schools and The Challenge Works program work together to meet transportation needs. Typically, The Challenge Works provides transportation either to or from the course, depending upon the availability of other school division bus drivers.

Whom can I contact for additional information about The Challenge Works?
Director: Kay Thomas
email: [email protected]
The Renaissance Academy
5100 Cleveland Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Telephone: 757.648-6000 Fax: 757.473-5098
Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. Mon. - Fri.


Last Modified on Wednesday, February 05, 2014