Eleven-year-old Terri Koleber was debating silently in her mind, but the struggle could be read on her face.
Should she fall backward "Nestea Plunge" style not into a swimming pool but into the arms of her classmates?
After several agonizing moments, Terri finally built up enough confidence to fall backward from the 2 -foot high platform on which she had been standing. Her classmates caught her without a hitch.
Terri had just performed the "Trust Fall," one of many exercises at the Adams Campus Confidence Course. Replete with trees and trails and located south of Clinton Lake, the course is designed to help people develop self-confidence and an appreciation for teamwork.
With the assistance of adults, sixth-graders from India and Sunset Hill elementary schools spent most of the day Monday at the course. The students said they learned quite a bit about working together.
TAKE THE "Wishbone," for example. Two people must remain touching one another as each shuffles sideways along a taut cable. The catch is that the cables are close together at first but gradually diverge from one another, like a wishbone.
Sunset Hill sixth-grader Matt Hicks explained how the exercise got students who don't normally work together to do so.
"When they first got there, they just liked to pair up with their friends," Matt said. "As it turned out, the people who chose someone their own size went the furthest."
That's because the two people must lean inward and hold hands to counterbalance each other as they shuffle along the diverging cables.
The students also learned about safety. Because the cables are somewhat elevated, students remained close to the pair performing the exercise and spotted them to ease any fall.
"For some things, you really need other people," said Sunset Hill sixth-grader Sheila Black.
THE BATTLE of the sexes is pretty big in the sixth grade, and there was some tension between boys and girls as 13 India students attempted to cross an imagined chasm in the "Earthquake" exercise.
India sixth-grader Luke Welton attributed the tension to competition.
"We've been like that most of the year," Luke said.
But India sixth-grader James Sutton said that tension subsided over the course of the day, especially after everybody in his group had done the Trust Fall.
"If we would have done the Trust Fall first, we could have done everything else better," James said.
Chuck Mead, coordinator of health and physical education for the Lawrence school district, is a big fan of the confidence course.
"One of the things I like about it is that there's always another way to do something," Mead said. "I think many times we restrict children in education and say there's only one way to get something accomplished. I think we need to allow more flexibility in the learning process."
MEAD SAID he also likes the course because it stresses cooperation instead of competition.
"If we can graduate students who know how to be a team player or a cooperative worker, we have accomplished a lot," Mead said.
Stephanie Strange, a sixth-grade teacher at India School, also was pleased with the daylong excursion.
"The confidence course just tends to build cohesiveness between the students, which makes cooperative learning in the classrooom a lot more successful," Strange said. "It helps them learn that they have to work together to accomplish a lot of things.
"They walked away from the course thinking they could conquer anything together."
A case in point: The students were given snacks on the bus ride back to school. Strange walked down the corridor of the bus collecting their wrappings after they were through but she missed somebody before returning to her seat.
THERE WAS no need for Strange to get up again, the students assured her. They offered to pass the wastebasket from one person to another until it reached the student with the trash. Then they would pass it back again.
The Adams Campus is owned by the Kansas University Endowment Association, and it currently is leased to KU's Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. HPER is responsible for administering and programming the outdoor education center, which also is used by many adult groups in the community.