Parachute Games

Students making a mushroom with the parachute
Students making a mushroom with the parachute

Today marks my feature, Leisurely Thursdays, where I focus on recreation and leisure and all things related. Leisure Education is the focus in today’s post.

Teaching part-time as a university lecturer is one of the best jobs I have ever had. I teach in the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration (RPTA) department at a state university in Northern California. One of the reasons I became a lecturer was to teach students in the major best practices in the profession after working in the public recreation field for 35 years.

The department offers a general education writing intensive course needed by all university students after taking and passing the Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE). This has become a wildly popular course with 10-14 sections offered each semester, hence the need for part-time lecturers.

I am proud to introduce the concepts of leisure to new groups of students each semester. The concept of Leisure Education is lost on most of the American public, but it is alive and well in Canada, Australia, and many European countries. The gratitude I feel after reading students’ essays is rewarding, especially when an engineering or pre-med student remarks how much leisure means to them after taking the course.

In this course, “Perspectives On Leisure,” students from all majors are to write 5,000 words over four writing assignments. The assignments are introspective, but require research and citations. I tell my students at the first class that they will be writing about their two favorite things: themselves and what they do for fun. That always goes over well!

Part of the curriculum is the mandatory participation of the Challenge Ropes course, where students spend a day in team-building activities led by special recreation leaders. The afternoon culminates in high element activities involving climbing walls, cargo nets, high wires and other fun activities. The ropes course is on the university campus and we spend six hours on a Saturday at the event.

Challenge Ropes Course
Challenge Ropes Course

After the students participate on the course, they write a reaction paper due in two weeks after the event. I feel bad the students have to spend their hard-earned Saturday engaged in a mandatory school activity (I don’t really get paid to be there, either), but many students discuss in their papers their amazement and satisfaction after going through the course.

The popularity of this class is due to the professors who initially designed the course and for adding the Challenge Ropes experiential learning component. Although the course is “canned curriculum,” each instructor has some leeway to add their own lesson plans and make the course their “own.”

As an instructor for this course, I added my own specialized information gleaned from 35 years as a practitioner in the recreation and leisure field to illuminate the textbook chapters. During most class sessions after lecture, we work in small groups. Students have enjoyed this format and between the Ropes course and interacting in class, many have made new friends. When evaluating the course, students often remark about the importance of these experiences.

The Story of Justin and Rachel

In this gallery are photos of a friendship that developed on the course. The students participate in the course early in the semester, and most do not know each other. Watch Rachel as she slowly climbs her way up the cargo net (very diffucult to do). Already at the top is classmate, Justin, who had just rung the bell. He sees Rachel climbing. Because of her shorter stature, she seems to have difficulty getting to the top. Justin simply grabs the back of her harness and hauls her up and over.

What teamwork! He didn’t have to help her and could have just climbed back down. When we all got back to class the next week, and I shared these photos with the class, everyone just cheered and commented on the teamwork and the fun we all had. That experience really bonded Justin and Rachel as well as the rest of the class for the entire semester. One of the best classes I ever taught. And they could write well, too.

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Even I take my turn! The students get a kick out of watching their professor participate.

Terri on the catwalk
Terri on the catwalk

Leisure experiences bond us as human beings. Play is important. We cannot live without it. What leisure activity will you enjoy today?

8 thoughts on “Parachute Games

  1. Love the idea of the course and the photos are beautiful. Of course my favorite is of you on the Cat Walk – SCARY! If you were up to hosting it, I think that “Leisure Thursday” would be a great photo challenge – perhaps reminding people to get out and enjoy life and to share photos/words about the activities that they enjoyed.

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  2. Great post and the photos highlight it nicely! 🙂 Play, recreation, movement – all so very important to our health and well being! I took a 20 minute tromp through the snow and did 90 minutes of yoga. That counts as leisure right 🙂

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  3. LifestyleswithLia

    What a joyful post! Your words and the photos are so inspiring! We should all have more leisure time and especially build more team work!
    PS: I would love to spend a Saturday on the Ropes!
    PPS: I remember playing with a parachute in gym class as a kid! Your post brought back memories!

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