Sixth-graders prepare for ABC Challenge

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Nov. 18, 2011
The ABC class at Sunset Ridge is preparing to undergo a ropes course adventure.  Photos by Frances Taylor.
The ABC class at Sunset Ridge is preparing to undergo a ropes course adventure. Photos by Frances Taylor.

For the past 10 weeks, sixth-graders at Sunset Ridge Academy of Arts and World Languages have been preparing for a challenge that will build teamwork and help them learn to set personal goals. The  program, Adventures Build Character (ABC), is aimed at all East Hartford students in the sixth grade, because they are at a transitional age.

At the end of the 12-week program, students will participate in a ropes course adventure nearly 40 feet off the ground. The town is one of only a few to have its own ropes course, which was installed behind East Hartford Middle School in  2003.

The adventure will test the cooperative skills the students have learned and will teach the students to face their own personal fears. Sixth-graders participate in the ABC program at each of elementary schools in town.

“They are at an age where their behaviors are changing, and life is starting to become more difficult and challenging,’’ said Linda Chamberlain, program coordinator for Youth Services, which administers the program. ABC was founded in 1985, and many generations of sixth-graders have passed through the program. Sixth-graders, who are about 10 or 11 years old, “are just beginning to express their independence, but are still in need of structure,” Chamberlain said. “And they are still willing to listen.”

“I have run into people who are 30 years old now, and [they] still remember taking the ropes course. They tell me it was one of the best experiences of their lives,” said Chamberlain, who has taught the program for the past 20 years.

Hanging tree limbs left over from the October snowstorm raised concerns among program officials, so the ropes course was originally postponed.

Instead, students discussed their feelings about this turn of events. “I’m angry, but also a little happy,” said Ita.  “I was excited to go, but I was also a little worried. I was thinking about what might happen if a rope would snap or something.”

Nathan, 12, said he was disappointed, but this would also give him more time to deal with some of his own fears. “I’m a little scared, but I think I am competent to do it. I think it’s going to be great.”

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