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Underground Adventures in Northern New England

March 6, 2018

 The Becket Family of Services including the Upper Valley Stewardship Center offers a vast variety of unique Adventure Programming to our students. This experiential learning model allows our students to connect with themselves, peers, faculty, and the environment in the most authentic way possible--to live it!

For many of our students the traditional four walled class room is a challenging environment. However, we see our students excel when appropriately challenged to work as a part of a group in a novel environment. Our Adventure-Based program in Warren, New Hampshire recently participated in a caving adventure under the Green Mountains of Vermont.


As I entered the House, I was immediately swarmed by curious and skeptical students who began to shout questions in my direction (All at once and in high volume) “Are their going to be bats?” “Will I get stuck?”. The students were gathered; questions were answered, expectations were set, and the group was headed in the right direction. The excitement was palpable as we headed for the Upper Valley Stewardship Center to gear up for what awaits under the surface. On the drive to the cave location, a few of the students who had participated in caving through the UVSC previously, offered insight and mentorship to the newer students.


We park at the small dirt pull off in Vermont, and the group begins to hike uphill. “Why do you always got us hiking uphill?” As we crest the final steep section of hardwood forest, the cool breeze flowing out of the mouth of cave captivates the groups attention, suddenly the complaints have stopped and the group appears fascinated and apprehensive.


One by one the group enters the cave and the headlights turn on to illuminate a mysterious world. The conversation drops as navigating the tight passageways and rooms requires the entire groups’ focus. At this point in the cave, students who might typically engage in conflict are offering their peers hand through the steep and slippery terrain. We stumble upon a bat hanging upside down from the roof of the cave, one students exclaims “I’ve never seen a bat before!” As we arrive in the deepest part of the cave, all students and faculty spread out and turn off their headlamps to experience true darkness. So dark that you cannot even tell if your hand is in front of your face, I must say that this lasts about 3 seconds before a student turns on their headlamp anxiously. The group then begins to make their way out of the cave. The group now moves confidently and efficiency, offering support to peers and faculty alike on the journey toward the surface.

A student joyously exclaims “the sun!” uponour exit. A few students and faculty high five and congratulate each other on a safe and successful cave exploration. Students share stories of struggles, fears, and victories that occurred inside the cave. Faculty processed this experience with a group debrief, in which everyone who participated in the cave exploration explains that they would like to engage in this activity again. The group returns the house exhausted, dirty, and with memories of a unique experience that will last a lifetime. Students are encouraged to draw upon the strength they used to navigate the cave to navigate their lives effectively and appropriately. Would the students have had the learning experience at home or school? The experiential learning is undeniable, and students involved in this journey connected with themselves, peers, faculty, and the environment in the most authentic way possible--by living it!


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