Wilderness Encounter courses, adventure trips to Texas and Hawaii, Wilderness First Responder certifications, rock climbing, caving and paddlesports. What do these things have in common? They are all a part of Messiah’s adventure education program.
The adventure education program includes work in the classroom where students learn technical skills and how to teach them to others. There are also hands-on experiences where students participate in activities such as rock-climbing, wilderness trips and various adventure/instructor courses. These components work together to develop team-building and leadership skills, which are central to adventure education.
So what can one do with a degree in adventure education? Some Messiah alumni have become camp directors and supervisors, adventure program coordinators, park rangers, youth leaders and outdoor guides and instructors.
First-year student Caleb Schluep wants to use his adventure education to work for a camp in an adventure setting, and maybe run a camp of his own one day. As an Eagle Scout, he loves the outdoors, and this is what drew him to Messiah’s adventure education program in the first place.
“I really like the team-building and leadership training aspects of adventure ed,” Schluep says. “Just as long as I’m going to be doing something in adventure ed, I’ll be happy.”
After going through most of the program, senior adventure education major Matthew Phillippy is planning to use his adventuring skills to become a missionary. He came to college considering a major in sports management or Christian ministry but realized that adventure education would be the perfect way to put his love of sports ministry to use.
Through previous missions trips, Phillippy has seen how sports and adventure activities can draw people in for a time of fun and relationship-building, giving him the opportunity to open their ears and hearts to the gospel.
Phillippy says he loves being a part of a program where everyone “comes alongside each other to learn,” and this seems to be one characteristic that makes adventure education stand out.
Dave Tanis, the assistant professor of adventure education at Messiah, agrees that personal and interpersonal growth are some of the main focuses of the program. “The group dynamics and what people are discovering about themselves and discovering about God and others, that’s what really is exciting,” Tanis says.
Tanis believes that the hands-on experience of the major helps students learn things about themselves they may not have known, and also prepares them for working with others.
“There’s something about being in nature, in God’s kind of raw creation,” Tanis says. “I think we see in the Bible that God has continually used the wilderness to prepare His people for service.”