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Westport sixth graders come together at Dudley

Westport sixth-grader Kaeli Brack swings across the ropes course at Camp Dudley.

Westport sixth-grader Kaeli Brack swings across the ropes course at Camp Dudley. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

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Westport sixth-graders try to keep their balance on the Camp Dudley ropes course May 9.

— As many as 14 sixth-grade students crowded onto a pair of small boxes set up at the other end of a rope swing, trying to stay out of the “lava.”

However, the goal was to have 16 students make their way to safety, which was never quite accomplished.

Afterwards, Jessica Storey sat down with the students to ask them what they could have done differently. Students gave their answers, ranging from coming up with a better plan to making sure people were working together in different areas.

Those answers were part of the learning experience the class had at the Camp Dudley ropes course, led by Storey and several camp leaders for the Westport Central School class May 9.

“We are following a program with the school that is similar to the ones that we use with the campers during the summer,” Storey said. “It’s a chance to get them out of their everyday setting and to do something that is fun in their own back yard and work with their classmates in a different way.”

The class started as two groups of eight working on either the rope swing challenge or a balancing challenge.

“It’s a chance to learn about themselves and about their classmates,” Storey said. “It’s a chance that they get to work collectively to achieve these challenges.”

“Every time that you do these activities, it is never going to be the same,” outdoor program leader Marlon Fisher said. “You get to find out who is going to step up.”

“They are coming together to work on the challenges and enjoying it,” sixth-grade teacher Zoe Brugger-Lobdell said. “Within the groups, you see the strengths of the students.”

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Marlon Fisher and Jessica Storey, right, watch as Westport sixth-graders try and keep their “spaceship” balanced May 9.

“It’s a fun way for the students to challenge themselves in an area that is out of their comfort zones,” school guidance counselor Joanne Mazzotte said. “It has a lot of team-building aspects to it and helps the class learn to work together.”

Currently, students in sixth and eighth grade participate in the program, which is hoping to expand.

“We are trying to have them come every other year from sixth grade to 10th grade,” Storey said. “We want to have them working towards the high ropes course when they are sophomores.”

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