Recreation, Parks and Tourism 421

RCPT 421: Ropes Course Programming

Pre- or corequisites: Major in RCPT or OURL minor and permission of the instructor

Credit Hours: (3) Three hours lecture/laboratory

Students learn and apply the technical, safety, leadership and facilitation skills essential to safe and effective ropes course programming. Emphasis is given to understanding the theoretical underpinnings of ropes course philosophy.

Note(s): A five-day training workshop is a required component of this course.


Detailed Description of Course Content

This course covers a wide spectrum and representative cross-section of cooperative warm-ups, non-traditional group games, trust activities, initiative or group problem-solving activities, and low and high challenge ropes course elements. Basic technical and safety skills will be taught, including spotting and the variety and types of belay devices, techniques and systems. Emphasis is placed on developing the necessary leadership and facilitation skills to implement safe and effective initiative and ropes course programs. Lastly, time is given to understanding the theoretical underpinnings of ropes course programming, including the experiential learning cycle, the full value contract, goal-setting, challenge by choice, and processing the adventure experience.


Detailed Description of Course Conduct

The course begins with an orientation to the theoretical concepts underlying ropes course programming and the experiential nature of the course. The orientation is following by an intensive knot-tying and harness construction lab. This permits students to practice those skills prior to the heart of the course, which is an intensive, experientially-based immersion in ropes course activities and programming over a five day period (Wednesday after dinner through Sunday late afternoon). Throughout the course students must maintain a journal. The journal is the primary source of information and insight for a required self-assessment at the end of the course. During the five-day training, students must demonstrate specific ropes course competencies in order to complete the course. Within two weeks of the five-day training, students take a comprehensive exam including the identification and tying of knots and harnesses, the visual identification of ropes course hardware, and a written exam covering all course materials. Finally, the student is required to complete a service learning (SL) component. The SL requirement involves assisting, co-leading and/or leading in the implementation of one day of ropes course programming. Closure is brought to the course when students share and present their SL experiences to other members of the course. Presentations cover client group, program design, actual activities implemented, successes and problems, and evaluation results.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Goal 1: To develop the basic technical and safety skills involved in ropes course programming

Objectives for Goal 1- at the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate proper spotting technique for low elements
  • Tie the following knots: bowline-on-bight, figure eight loop knot, double back figure eight, retraced figure eight, and half, double and triple overhand bends.
  • Tie a Studebaker harness with nine- millimeter dynamic rope.
  • Perform a standing hip belay
  • Belay using at least two of the following mechanical belay devices: sticht plate, ATC, GriGri, and/or a Trango Pyramid.
  • Demonstrate appropriate belay techniques as a second or backup belayer.
  • Distinguish between "dynamic" and "static belays" within the ropes course context.
  • Identify at least five factors or considerations regarding the "on ground" safety management of low and high ropes course elements.
  • Explain at least five procedures or strategies for the proper care ands storage of ropes course rope.
  • Properly identify and explain the function of all equipment items essential to ropes course safety, including carabiners, rapid links, helmets, harnesses, pulleys, ropes course cables and connections, and tools for maintenance and inspection of elements.

Goal 2: To understand the theoretical concepts and constructs underlying ropes course programming, including the experiential learning cycle, the full value contract, goal-setting, challenge by choice, and processing the adventure experience.

Objectives for Goal 2- at the end of the course, and with reference to her/his journal, the student will be able to:

  • Describe at least five techniques or strategies for implementing challenge by choice.
  • Illustrate the four components of the experiential learning cycle.
  • Explain at least five methods or techniques for effective processing of experience learning.
  • Explain three methods for implementing a full value contract.
  • Articulate the role of goal setting in the experiential learning process.

Goal 3: To apply the basic skills and understanding of ropes course programming.

Objectives of Goal 3: Through SL experience, each student will:

  • Assist in the design of a ropes course program for a specific client group.
  • Assist, co-lead and/or lead specific initiatives and ropes course elements under the supervision of qualified ropes course personnel.
  • Develop and complete a self-evaluation regarding her/his participation in the SL experience.


Assessment Measures

Assessment is based upon participation in classes, labs, and a five day training workshop, successful demonstration of competency-based technical and safety skills, completion of a written self- assessment, completion of a written journal, a comprehensive examination, and involvement in a service learning program.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

Reviewed February 2005 Edward Udd, Chair

June 20, 2015