Flowing north from Blowing Rock, North Carolina, the New River is one of the oldest waterways on the world and has carved a steep and rugged canyon through southern West Virginia. The 53-mile New River Gorge National River is home to one of the most diverse biospheres on the continent. From the lush, riparian ecosystem of the river and its banks up to the craggy canyon rim environment, the gorge is as diverse as it is complex.
That’s where the 1,500-acre ACE Adventure Resort comes in. Their guides are experts on the great outdoors and the neighboring New River Gorge environment. They know how to have fun and inspire kids to learn. Teachers who have used their programs know that a day spent with ACE develops important social skills, inspires creative problem solving and helps their students to see the world through new “glasses.”
As stewards of environmental responsibility and sustainability, ACE has developed life science field trip curriculums in Hydrology, Ecology and Geology. Each curriculum explores the natural elements of the New River Gorge, how humans impact these systems and how everyone can contribute to its protection. Customizable for grades nine to 12, the full day activity incorporates a science lesson with a guided outdoor adventure. Every curriculum integrates STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines into a cohesive teaching and learning approach while exploring the natural elements and impacts of this environment.
But the staff at ACE also knows there has to be something more to set the stage for learning. That’s why each program incorporates an outdoor activity — all having one theme in common — experiencing an outrageously good time! Kids have so much fun in ACE’s outdoor playground; they don’t even realize how much information is really being absorbed.
The geology program includes interactive lessons that examine the erosion and evolution that has exposed formations and our planet’s geological character in this thousand-foot gorge. Part two of the day takes on a different sort of discovery. Students climb and rappel the very cliffs evolution spent millions of years compressing into rock. It is a tactile experience that drives home how the planet seems so unchanging but is in fact evolving all the time.
The hydrology curriculum incorporates a day of whitewater rafting. In this floating classroom, students learn how water, the landscape and human activity are interconnected. They explore why water is a precious resource and how they can become part of the solution to its preservation.
As part of the ecology curriculum, zip lining helps to explore the ecosystems that exist along the rim of the New River Gorge. Students learn how plants, animals and non-living factors play critical roles in their environment. Among other activities that teach self-awareness and human impacts, students participate in an ongoing national project to identify and record the biodiversity of the Gorge.
As advances in technology and communication increase, educators are addressing how to augment traditional schoolroom and textbook style of teaching. STEM educational experiences have been pivotal in redefining the way educators frame their lessons. ACE has embraced STEM principles through their experiential outdoor curriculums, creating dynamic situations that engage kids. Their programs immerse students into the experience, allowing them to make the great connections between theory and practical application.
Recognizing how students are motivated and engaged is key to the success of ACE’s educational experiences. They know how to have fun in the great outdoors while inspiring kids to understand what it really means to live on this planet and be a part of its future.