Girls, Volunteers

The Challenge Courses of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio

Girl Scouts, are you ready for some thrills? Do you want to build your courage and cheer on your friends as you master obstacles and take on new heights? Then it’s time you tried one of our challenge courses!

What’s a challenge course?

Sometimes referred to as a ropes course (although not all challenge courses involve rope obstacles), our challenge courses are outdoor  activities that contain high and/or low elements depending on the course you are on (we have several kinds in our council!).

These courses are made up of real and imaginary obstacles that are designed to challenge (hence the name) groups to use their skills and teamwork to accomplish a set task. Sometimes these courses involve traversing a series of ropes and cables near the ground (low) or high in the sky (high) and sometimes there are ground based obstacles that require groups to work together (this type is often called group initiatives).

No matter what type of course you are on (low/high, group initiatives), it’s designed to “present tests of physical strength, stamina, agility, balance, and flexibility, and invite participants to confront such emotional issues as the fear of falling, the fear of failure, and the fear of losing control. Risk is managed by group members who assume critical spotting roles.” (source)

Brownies and older can tackle our low courses, which take place on the ground or 12 to 18 inches above the ground, while Cadettes and older can take on the high courses, which are generally about 30 feet in the air and are constructed using utility poles or trees. The high courses require a belay for safety and allow you to zip (using a zipline) to the course end.

Where are our courses located?

High Challenge Course at Camp Whip Poor Will, Morrow Ohio: New Fall 2017!

Nestled in the woods of Camp Whip Poor Will, over 35 feet in the air,  is our newest High Challenge Course! The challenge course’s 5 elements are designed to challenge participants, who are safely connected to the course.

To start, participants must first climb a large cargo net. Then the real challenges begin! Once on course, participants will encounter the Tarzan Ropes (a series of long ropes that you use to balance as you cross the foot line), a boardwalk without anything to hold on to, a bridge made out of swinging logs, a swaying series of buttons and balance beams, and the lord of the rings. After conquering the challenge course elements participants exit down the zip line.

Adventure Challenge at Camp Libbey, Defiance Ohio (pictured above)

Since 2003, Camp Libbey’s High Challenge course has been helping campers challenge themselves, conquer fears, and build team work while 30 ft in the air! Campers can begin their experience as Brownies conquering the climbing wall with two different routes, one more challenging than the other.

Once bridged to Juniors, girls learn about team work through Crate Staking. Through this unique activity, the group works to build a tower of milk crates and one girl, belayed by a certified instructor, climbs the tower and assists with building from above. When the tower comes crashing down the climber is safely lowered to the ground, a new climber is selected, the team problem solves new ideas, and the process begins again.

Cadettes through Ambassadors have the opportunity to discover all the course has to offer. Girls can build on their team building skills by trying the Giant’s Ladder. Two girls must work together to climb each rung of the ladder, each level being farther apart then the last. The only way to make it is by relying on your partner to help you to the top! For an individual challenge, girls can try out the Firecracker Ladder, a free-hanging ladder constructed of hardwood rungs that are secured at their middle by a central rope.

Girls can choose either ladder or the climbing wall to reach the top 5 elements of the high challenge course. Spanning between the main platform and the 3 other poles of the challenge course are 5 different elements for girls to experience. From the main platform girls, can choose either the Tarzan Ropes or the Postman’s Walk that has a single foot line with a hand-line for balance about chest high. Through the center of the course is a Burma Bridge, a v-shaped bridge formed by a foot line and two handrails. The final two elements allow girls to test their balance with nothing to hold onto: a Catwalk (a telephone pole) and a Broken Bridge (a series of flat planks two feet apart).

For the grand finale girls, can take a trip down our zip line!

Low Challenge Courses: We’ve Got 3!

Girl Scouts of Western Ohio has three low challenge courses at camps Whip Poor Will, Libbey, and Stonybrook. These traditional low challenge courses are designed to encourage communication and problem solving. Elements are made out of unassuming items such as wooden boxes, telephone poles, ropes,  giant teeter totters and wires strung between trees. Facilitators use these elements to “set the scene” and create a problem that needs to be solved.

Team Initiative Course at Woodhaven Program Center, Lima Ohio

The purpose of the team initiative course at Woodhaven is to encourage girls to communicate and work together to solve a problem or obstacle.  Each element may look simple: a few ropes between trees, a few cinder blocks and several boards, or just a utility pole laying on the ground.  But the tasks may prove difficult to master unless everyone is listening and focused on the problem! This course may not look like a traditional course and it’s not intended to, but it will definitely challenge groups to go beyond their comfort zone or try their patience.

What happened to the high course at Woodhaven Program Center?

All our council challenge courses are required to be inspected annually by an ACCT certified challenge course company to ensure that hardware, materials, equipment, and environment meet rigid safety standards. Typically, poles for a high challenge course need to be replaced approximately every 20 years. Woodhaven’s course was installed in 1998 and a recent inspection of the below-ground portions of the poles found that they need to be replaced, so the course has been shut down. Our council does not have plans to rebuild the course at this time, but we have not ruled out doing so in the future!

How are our instructors certified?

Challenge Course instructor training varies depending on what part of the course an instructor will be facilitating. A two-hour training course will prepare volunteers to safety facilitate the low challenge courses at our camps, including how to run an element, plus any spotting or safety tips. Another two-hour course will train volunteers how to belay climbing walls or high courses.  This enables them to assist fully trained instructors, but more training and experience is necessary to facilitate belaying on their own. Finally, to be a fully certified instructor on high courses, volunteers must attend a 4-day intense training on all facets of the challenge course, plus be able to climb up and move around the high challenge courses with ease. This training is held around the end of May at Camp Libbey and is still being determined for Camp Whip Poor Will.

How do I sign up?!

Our courses are regularly used as part of our summer camp programming, and we also offer challenge course events during the fall and spring for our girls. To find out dates, cost, and locations for upcoming activities on our courses, you can check out our Activities List and search for High Challenge, Zipline, or Low Challenge.

Spring event registration will open in November, so if you missed the fall opportunities, don’t forget to check back for our spring dates! You can also see our planned activities listed in the Adventure Challenge Education section of our Program Events Guide.

When you’ve identified a date and activity that works for you, register at gswo.org/activities. You can also call customer care at 888.350.5090 with questions or if you need help registering.


So what are you waiting for? Grab some friends, find your sturdiest tennis shoes, and get signed up for one of our challenge courses today!

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