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Children balance strength, team work





The children wobbled on vines stretched across a jungle gorge and leapt over piranha-infested waters.

The scenarios playing out Wednesday near Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum were imaginary, but the participants' teamwork and strategizing were genuine. The Hays Public Library challenged seven fourth- and fifth-graders to a variety of activities meant to test their bodies and minds for the Tweens Ropes Course event.

The first station had the children pretending they were balancing on vines as they made their way across wires to poles positioned throughout the Mohawk Walk course. Tumbles off the course were common, but the users adapted after each misplaced foot or unexpected weight shift sent them falling.

Equipped with a balancing stick, the participants experimented with such techniques as holding hands and walking together to going forward alone.

The various ideas failed until they realized the winning approach -- traveling in pairs and passing the stick down the line once they reached the safety of a pole.

Cathleen Kroeger, children's librarian and a certified ropes course facilitator, said it was the first time she staged the program at the library. Similar programs with other groups have boosted children's self-esteem, she said.

"It's a really great time for the kids to get out and have some physical activity," Kroeger said. "It's also really great for building up some teamwork, helping them with learning how to solve problems together without having the adults intervene."

Noalee McDonald-Augustine, educational consultant  with Smoky Hill Education Service Center, said the goal is to foster team building and communication skills.

"It's learning by doing rather than just sitting in the classroom and listening," McDonald-Augustine said.

Frustration and squabbles can disrupt the best teams, she said. However, the process can help strangers to bond and rely on each other to navigate obstacles.

"You see those barriers break apart, and they come together as a team," she said.

Tayshaun Birch, a participant, said balancing on the pole was the best approach because it carried most of his weight, and he only had to use his feet.

"The most challenging project was the Mohawk Walk trail," he said. "We did really well on that. At first, I didn't know I was going to get that far. But we just needed teamwork."

The afternoon also featured the children hopping between wood pallets using only a plank and a box. An angled zip line and the flying squirrel ropes course had children hoisted into the air.