There is a place in Marcellus that is changing lives. It's hidden in the woods and everyone that pulls in finds themselves asked to step outside their comfort zone, try something new, and build relationships with their peers- along the way you will have to work as a team, open up to new friends and trust each other enough to jump from the trees and fly. It's an amazing experience and it's one that I've been lucky enough to have at least a half dozen times with both co-workers and my students. Orenda Springs is a Experiencial Learning Center that aims to help teach life skills and, per their mission, wants to help people realize their true potential by learning how to embrace challenges that bring about change. I've watched Orenda Springs help change the lives of several students- but I'll just relate one quick story.
There is one student that I've had for a few years, and he struggled in our building. He ran the halls, got into fights, cursed at staff and students and on occasion put his fist through the windows in some of the doors. When I think back on the past few years, he is the one student I have ever felt afraid of. He was unpredictable and he was not succeeding in our school. He was eventually moved out and that's when Orenda scooped him up. I've seen a few pictures of him working at Orenda and I knew when we went as a staff this week there'd be a good chance that he'd be there. I knew before I got there that he would be a different kid then the one that ran our halls. I couldn't have predicted how different he would be. Over the course of the day we saw a kid who was responsible, respectful and who we could trust to hook us to harnesses and haul us 65 feet up in the air and to help hold the rope as we flew through the trees like a falcon. 5 months ago I wouldn't have expected this kid to ever turn it around. Now I see a kid that is successful and It's pretty inspiring. This kids story isn't the exception either, it's the rule. When kids go to Orenda they grow and change in ways that their classroom teachers often can't imagine. We talk a lot about diversity in the classrooms, offering new and exciting ways to learn, but we often forget that kids sometimes need a diversity of environment. They need to break out of the 4 walls and try something new. When the traditional school environment isn't working, getting outside and having a different perspective can make all the difference for some kids. For this kid it changed everything.
Not only does Orenda change kids lives but they offer team building days for adults- I've gone twice and both times it's been a blast. You get to know your co-workers a whole lot better and have a ton of fun. Personally I love the high ropes course, specifically the Peregrine Falcon, where you get pulled 65 feet up in the air by your friends and then you pull your cord and fly through the trees. You can also climb up a tree and jump off to catch a friends hand, cross logs suspended above the trees or get lifted a few feet at a time until you are ready to come back down. The whole time you are relying on your team mates to keep you safe. It's a blast.
Aside from team building and the ropes courses Orenda also has horses, does skiing and has a yurt that students can hike to. What Orenda Springs really does is help people realize they are stonger and braver then they may have thought all while teaching you how to work together, and those lessons carry long past the day and into the classroom. What John Powers has created at Orenda Springs is nothing short of amazing and I hope kids get to keep going there for years!
Home of the ramblings of an avid reader. In my spare time I also run, ride, teach, go on adventures and get into shenanigans.
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