KIMBERTON - Delaware Valley Friends School instructor, Kenneth A. Sinapius, teaches students trust and confidence outside of the classroom with the ABLE program.
"This is the best thing that's ever happened to me," said Sinapius of his position at DVFS as director of Adventure Based Learning Experience (ABLE) for the past two years. Sinapius, of Kimberton, leads day and extended length trips with students in various adventure sports.
Classes include a ropes course with Adventure Network and Westtown Friends School, rock climbing at Ralph Stover State Park, cross country skiing in the Adirondacks and biking at Del-Marva Peninsula. Students also can backpack in the Adirondacks and take part in Red Cross or CPR training.
Courses begin with class meetings twice a week during the first three weeks of a semester and then six days of trips that are either single day trips or one trip.
"It's their own micro-culture," said Sinapius. Students that are on trips have to problem solve, manage themselves and work together to get tasks done.
Delaware Valley Friends School is a Quaker, nonprofit college preparatory school that teaches students with learning difficulties like Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia. Students have normal intelligence but difficulty in typical schools, many of them having had negative experiences with the academic environment previously.
"Right from the beginning of the school," said Sinapius, "outdoor classes were considered integral." The ABLE course, that is required for graduation, was established with the opening of the school in 1986.
"It fits very well with the student population here," said Sinapius referring to the ABLE program. Students with learning difficulties tend to do well with hands on activities like sports and art.
"Team building is one of the big things," said Sinapius. "It pulls the grades together." DVFS includes seventh to 12 grades, with the ABLE program offered to ninth- to 12th-grade students.
"It's trust building," said Sinapius. "Other students in the group are holding the end of the rope."
Sinapius also does team-building trips with middle school students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. The programs are designed to boost self-esteem because students experience success.
"We're doing what we set out to do," said Sinapius about the school's success as a whole. The school considers itself successful based on the students' high acceptance into college.
Sinapius, who lives in Kimberton with his wife and 4-year-old son, has over 20 years of outdoor education experience. He taught wilderness courses with Outward Bound program in Florida, Baltimore and worked as an Outward Bound international instructor in England and Malaysia. Sinapius earned a bachelor's degree in Outdoor Education and master's degree in business.
"The most important thing it teaches is to not let fears control you," said Sinapius. "I think the kids that don't want to go sometimes get more out of it." Based on their feedback, students are pleased that they succeeded, met new people and have new social groups.
Sinapius keeps up with new trends in outdoor adventure through training, seminars, and maintaining contacts that are in the field. He also works with industry outdoor programs part time.
Sinapius added skiing and reintroduced first aid and CPR in his two years at Delaware Valley Friends School. He intends to add a marine science course that combines class work with another staff member and sea kayaking trips.
"I was stuck behind a desk," said Sinapius. "Here, where I am able to do the trips, it has renewed my energy ... and my fitness level."
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