Appalachian Challenge®

Appalachian Challenge® is Park’s nationally-recognized outdoor education program. A major component of the program is the initiative course (sometimes called a ropes or high and low confidence course). When initiated in 1974, Park’s program was one of 12 in the country.

The course is one of the largest in the mid-Atlantic region and is likely the only high and low confidence course in the country originally constructed, maintained, and taught by students. Challenge is an exciting aspect of the Middle School curriculum. Several of the goals of the program are:

  • To have students explore the world around and within themselves through physical, social, and emotional endeavors.
  • To enhance group communication, cooperation, and support through group problem solving.
  • To increase the participants’ comfort level in the outdoors.

Challenge 1

In this class, seventh and eighth grade students extend their work on the sixth grade theme of “community” by engaging in group problem solving activities and teamwork puzzles on the Challenge Course. Whether they are sneaking through the Spider’s Web without waking the dozing arachnid, traversing the Pig’s Trough using simple machines, or ascending up and over the 8’ wall, Challenge 1 participants utilize the resources of their peers to accomplish difficult tasks. Through this process they learn about group dynamics and communication by identifying roles within a group as well as their, sometimes untapped, individual strengths and talents. As the class progresses, there are opportunities for participants to tackle the challenges of high initiatives including zip lines, swings, and climbing towers.

Challenge Leadership

This class is offered to those Middle and Upper School students who have completed Challenge 1 and are interested in exploring their personal leadership style and becoming a Challenge leader. Participants learn technical skills to safely facilitate the initiatives on the Challenge Course, as well as explore group dynamics, techniques for leading group discussions, and develop their own personal leadership style.

Student Leaders

These students are individuals who have successfully completed Challenge Leadership 1 and 2, followed by two additional semesters working alongside a senior Black Helmet Leader. They volunteer to facilitate the Challenge I class and outreach workshops.


Low initiative programs are conducted with KIPP Ujima Academy, Afya School, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, John’s Hopkins Biomedical Containment Unit, Park School’s Parents’ Association, Upper School physics classes, Baltimore Policy Youth Academy, Foreign Exchange Students, and Shank’s Mare Outfitters. Outreach workshops are also conducted for new Middle School and Upper School Park students during orientation, new Park parents, and Park School faculty and staff. Park Lower School students get involved in Challenge with workshops, supporting studies, and learning how to collectively problem solve.

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