Delavan-Darien High School students Berenice Galindo and Holley Morse try kayaking as part of the school’s outdoor adventure physical education class. (Submitted photo)

By Michael S. Hoey


Delavan-Darien High School has developed a physical education curriculum called Outdoor Adventure/Leadership over the past eight years that goes beyond the usual physical education class. The course gives students skills they can use throughout their lives to stay healthy.

Physical education teacher Ben Herland said the district received a $1.2 million federal Carol M. White Physical Education Programming grant designed to improve physical education programming and community health. He said many teachers at the high school eight years ago worked very hard to win the grant.

Herland said some parents and community members have asked about the program recently, so the district wanted to communicate to the community what the program is all about.

“We want to keep the community educated about what we are doing,” Herland said.

Herland said not many schools in the area have a program like Delavan-Darien’s. While some schools offer outdoor adventure classes, they do not have their own equipment, so students have to rent equipment or travel to other locations to take the class.

The most recognizable physical parts of the program people are familiar with are the outdoor rope course and the indoor rock-climbing wall in the school’s west gym. No other school in the Southern Lakes Conference has a ropes course.

The program, Herland said, also includes kayaks, canoes, geocaching and snowshoes as it teaches students life-long activities that can keep them healthy.

Herland said the class is capped at 20 students each to keep students safe. There are six classes right now. He said that usually about half of the class has never paddled a kayak before and about a quarter of them have never even been on the water.

The class is popular, Herland said, with the right kind of student. He said the course is challenging and students who like that kind of physical challenge enjoy it. Getting over one’s fears, like the fear of heights, is one benefit of the course. Team-building and learning to trust others are also important elements of the course.

Herland said the course benefits students beyond the health aspects of it. He said the course develops “soft transferrable skills” like leadership, working well with others, problem solving and communication that many businesses find appealing in employees. That, he said, can make students more hirable, get them paid more and help them move up in their company.

“This is a non-traditional fitness class,” Herland said.

Herland said he has seen students lose 10 to 70 pounds in one semester and that is enhanced by nutrition the students learn about in the class.

The class helps get student healthier by teaching them life-long activities that some will find more interesting than working out in a gym.

“We are fortunate to have it,” Herland said.


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