Appalachian Challenge

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 twelve in the country.

The course is one of the largest in the mid-Atlantic region and is likely the only high & low confidence course in the country entirely constructed, maintained, and taught by students. Appalachian 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 I

In this class, seventh and eighth grade students extend their work on the 6th 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 I 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 successfully completed Challenge I and are interested in developing their leadership skills and/or becoming a Challenge leader. Participants learn how to facilitate the initiatives on the Challenge course as well as explore group dynamics and expertly lead group discussions.

Student Leaders

These students are individuals who have successfully completed Challenge Leadership and sign up to help lead Challenge I or any of the outreach workshops.


Low initiative programs have been conducted for Winston Middle School, Kipp Ujima Village Academy, Be More Baltimore, St. Frances Academy, The Children’s Guild, and many others. Outreach workshops are also conducted for new Middle School and Upper School Park students during orientation. Park Lower School students get involved in Challenge with workshops supporting studies in bridge building, ancient machines, and learning how to work together cooperatively to solve problems.