Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Over the Edge: Moab Rock-Climbing Course

Climbing at "Wall Street"
She stands on the edge of the precipice, rope dangling into the dark chasm below.  Her anchor is secure, her belayer at the ready. Heart pounding, breath shaking, she pushes through the fear and over the edge into the void.

This was junior Katie Busch’s “favorite but most terrifying” moment of the Moab Rock Climbing Course. Looking Glass Rock towers 185 feet above the ground. After climbing this daunting slab in three “pitches” or stages, the students had nowhere to go but down.

More of "Wall Street"
“I was scared getting up there,” Katie remembered. “But I was terrified getting down.” Sitting on a precipice overlooking empty air, she had to push off the edge and trust the rope to hold her. “Going over that edge was the hardest thing to do. But when I did it, I was so happy. It was so fun. I wish I could go back and do it again.”

On the Moab Rock Climbing Course, October 2-12, 2013, students confronted the edge in multiple ways. Physically they had to learn to trust one another and to trust the rope as they climbed and rappelled in demanding and challenging environments. Standing at the top of a 200 foot drop, you have to know the person on the other end of the rope is trustworthy.

In the same way, students had to learn to trust one another as they shared about their fears and experiences...

Ekklesia Mountain High now has its own blog pages where we can post more pictures and expand the stories!  Read the rest of this story at the EMH blog here.

Ekklesia Mountain High is a boarding and day-student program for high school juniors and seniors at Darren Patterson Christian Academy, in which approximately forty days of wilderness experience and leadership training is integrated with rigorous academics in DPCA's Biblically-centered environment.  To learn more, please visit the school's website at, and the EMH program's website at 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Challenge and Fun at BCAP

Katelyn, Cailyn, and Heather experiencing the initial drop on the swing...
DPCA secondary students were invited over the last couple of weeks to engage with their classmates in challenge-course adventure and fun at Brown's Canyon Adventure Park, the new ropes course opened at Noah's Ark Rafting early this past summer.  Noah's Ark provided a deep discount and expert staff, and DPCA students provided courage and adrenaline as they enjoyed the many and varied elements of the Adventure Park.

Cailyn on Canyon Rim

Tanner trying to stay more or less upright...
Junior high students went to the course with Mr. Euler and Mr. Ritschard on Wednesday, October 16, while high school students and staff had their adventure day one week later.  Both groups were able to explore a majority of the Park's many challenging elements.  Highlights included the Canyon Rim elements, featuring a number of ziplines and the freedom of the continuous belay devices, and both the high and lower challenge courses, which feature a belay system that requires the student to shift manually from one element to the next. For both the junior and senior high students, the giant swing was a favorite part of the afternoon.

Pat Bell of Noah's Ark also provided pre-challenge orientation and a debriefing session following the afternoon on the course.  Pat's challenge each week was to see that challenges in life require both individual courage and community support and encouragement to face. He reminded students and staff that though life does often become very challenging, the Lord has promised to always walk with us, and that we are often better and stronger after successfully dealing with difficult situations.

Maddie seems to be having fun!
We're grateful to Noah's for making it possible for our students to enjoy a challenging and fulfilling afternoon at the BCAP.  More information about Noah's Ark and the Brown's Canyon Adventure Park can be found here.  As we returned to school, several of the students said, "we should do this every Wednesday!"  What a blessing that adventure and challenge and enjoying the beautiful area around us is part of an education at DPCA!

Katie climbing the Leap of Faith

Jacob and Jase on Canyon Rim

Noah and Hawk on the crazy red disks!

We should do this every Wednesday!
Juan navigates a moving climbing wall 50 feet off the ground...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Teachers Enjoy ACSI Nexus

Thursday and Friday, October 17 and 18, DPCA students enjoyed a couple of days out of school - while DPCA teachers and staff went back to school!  On those two days, over 14,000 Christian school educators, including most of the DPCA staff, gathered in centers around the United States for professional development and inspirational reminders of the importance and value of Christian schooling.  The Association of Christian Schools International - of which DPCA is a member - put together the live, simultaneously broadcast conference called ACSI Nexus 2013.  DPCA staff attended the conference at ACSI Headquarters in Colorado Springs.

The conference opened with a keynote address by ACSI president Dr. Dan Egeler encouraging us to Carpe Aeternitatum - to Seize Eternity - "why settle for just one day?"  Dr. Egeler reminded delegates that we have this tremendous privilege as Christian school educators - to teach and serve with eternity in mind.  That theme persisted throughout the conference, with content ranging from practical tips for improving classroom instruction, to suggestions for connecting with our increasingly "digital" students. Teachers and staff came away encouraged:  Mrs. Akers noted, "I was just amazed that the speakers and their thoughts not only connected with each other, but also addressed exactly what those of us in Amy’s car were talking about on the way over.  It seemed that every speaker addressed something of value for me, even though I am not in a classroom."

The benefits for DPCA teachers continue through the school year: ACSI maintains an online professional development and networking community called ACSI ConNexus that provides for teachers to have contact with Christian school peers around the world, and features hundreds of hours of professional development courses on a wide variety of topics.  

Last week, DPCA students received a double blessing: an extra couple of days off from school, and then teachers and staff newly challenged and equipped to make each day at DPCA count for Christ and eternity.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Right Kind of Busy

We're all "busy" much of the time - it's not unusual to ask someone how they've been, and hear some variation of "busy."  But what kinds of things are we "busy" doing? Is our busyness a mark of abundant life, or something else?  Kevin DeYoung speaks to "A Right Kind of Busy" in this article from World Magazine:

(You may need to create an account to view the whole article - it's worth it.)

Community in Wilderness: EMH at GSDNP

Getting food ready for the course.
True community cannot be forced or manufactured. At Ekklesia Mountain High, it starts when the students themselves decide to believe and invest in their community together. Sure, the instructors do their best to create an environment where community is encouraged, but it doesn’t really happen until the students themselves make it happen.

That was the thinking behind the Sand Dunes Course, the first EMH course of the year, which took place August 18-28 in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, about 80 miles southeast of Buena Vista. 

Director Ben Little wanted to take the students out before school started, to give them an opportunity to set the tone of the school year before they even set foot in the classroom. “We wanted to begin the process of building the community, as well as of developing the wilderness skills the students will need for the year.”

First, the group simply needed to get to know each other. With two new instructors - Jordan Euler and Deanna Jamison - along with ten EMH students and three guests from a school in Texas interested in partnering with the EMH program, the dynamic of the group had changed considerably from last year.

“A highlight of the course for me was getting to know the students and interacting with them in an outdoor environment,” said Mr. Euler. “It was good to get to know them before the start of classes, in a more relaxed setting.”

Challenging terrain; beautiful scenery!
Over the ten days, the students hiked over 25 miles. They spent one day climbing 13,200’ Mt. Herard and spent a few days off-trail, exploring difficult terrain with downed trees, thick brush, and steep inclines. They also visited two beautiful mountain lakes.

Within this setting, the instructors set the expectations for the course and presented the students with opportunities to lead.  Each day the instructors chose two “leaders of the day,” students who were responsible to find the route as they learned to read and follow the map, tell the group how far they were traveling and how much elevation they were gaining and losing, and use the map to get the group to the next campsite.

According to Mr. Little, “The leaders of the day have to set the pace, keep the group together, and decide the schedule for the day, like when we hike, when we do TAG (Time Alone with God) time, and so forth. They also decide how they will frame the day spiritually, presenting the group with a thought or verse they want the group to think about while they are hiking.”

Each successive course will present the students with more leadership opportunities, but the Sand Dunes Course is important because it lays the groundwork for what is expected from the students throughout the year. Mr. Little was encouraged by the response of the group.

“We had a particularly strong group of leaders this time. The students really embraced the idea of community. They got excited about it and took it seriously. We introduced our theme: The Mission of God’s People. We started to ask, ‘What is the mission of God’s people? What are we called to do?’”

As God’s people who are currently the upperclassmen of DPCA, the students discussed what their role would be in the upcoming school year. As leaders in the school, what kind of culture did they want to create? What would they do to cultivate that culture, as well as to lead in setting the example?

The students began by creating a list of goals for the year. They wrote out the list, and then each student signed it as an agreement to work together toward achieving those goals. Their list included the following expectations:

·         To keep a positive attitude, not creating a culture of complaining, even when expectations are not met.
·         To have real relationships. If people are struggling, be honest and share with each other. Even though we want a positive atmosphere, we don’t want fake faces. Talk out problems instead of masking them.
·         To create a culture of respect for each other, not putting down or talking bad about each other.
·         To enjoy each other. To find the fun moments and create memories within the school day and outside of school as well.

Senior Becca Wade said, “I’m super glad we did this list, because that is where my thoughts were going for this year. It’s cool to have a goal of going for it together. So far everyone is being really encouraging.”

Senior Levi Jelenik also embraced the idea of community. “Last year I had a more pessimistic attitude at times,” he said. “Looking back, I decided I could be a better person. This year, I stayed optimistic the whole time. I chose a better attitude.”

Some solo time...
“The students really enjoyed each other on this course,” Mr. Little confirmed. “It was fun to see them coming together in such a positive way.”

At the end of the course, the students did a 24-hour monitored solo where they spent the night by themselves. It was a good time of journaling and reflecting on the course. A couple of students in particular really grew emotionally and spiritually through that experience, and the group had a good discussion afterward about how God spoke to them.

Overall, the course accomplished what the instructors were hoping for and more, setting the tone for a year of encouraging and growing together as a community. The students leave October 2 for their next challenge, the Moab Climbing Course.

"I'm ready," said Becca Wade. "I can't wait to get outside and climb some rocks."

Ekklesia Mountain High is a boarding and day-student program for high school juniors and seniors at Darren Patterson Christian Academy, in which approximately forty days of wilderness experience and leadership training is integrated with rigorous academics in DPCA's Biblically-centered environment.  To learn more, please visit the school's website at, and the EMH program's website at