The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 17, 2014

ACE Adventure to offer environmental course

A new environmental-educational program offered at a West Virginia resort is taking students out of the classroom and placing them in the outdoors, where they’re rafting rivers, climbing rocks and zipping through the forest canopy.

Designed by ACE Adventure Resort, which operates a 1,500-acre outdoor-adventure vacation retreat in the New River Gorge, the program meets standards set by the U.S. Department of Education and is tailored particularly for educators and Scout leaders.

Resort officials say the neighboring national Boy Scout’s Summit Bechtel Family Reserve, which hosted its first national Jamboree in 2013, has called attention to the gorge as an outdoor classroom of epic proportions, though it has long been ideal for demonstrating the environmental sciences.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a more ideal outdoor classroom,” said Jackie Gallimore, the outdoor-education director contracted to oversee development of the programs for ACE.

“In a few square miles the gorge provides all the diversity we needed to demonstrate the ecology, geology and hydrology of the central Appalachian environment.”

Gallimore said students are first engaged through interactive lessons before setting out on field adventures.

Hydrology students raft a segment of gentle upper New River. Geology students climb a beginner’s route on cliffs that line the gorge. Ecology students zip through the forest on the resort’s mile-long canopy-tour network.

According to Beth Gill, the resort’s director of communications, a pilot environmental program was tested in autumn, and representatives of schools and Scout troops have since been voicing interest.

As exciting as the program may be, Gill and Gallimore stress that its curriculum is exacting and meets the standards for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs, or “STEM,” instituted by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

ACE Adventure Resort has been a center for outdoor recreation and education in West Virginia since its owners first launched raft trips on the New River in 1980 as American-Canadian Expeditions.

Each year, the resort hosts more than 50,000 visitors, guiding outdoor-enthusiasts on hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking and zip-lining tours and outfitting raft trips on the New and Gauley rivers in West Virginia.

In 2010, the resort was designated the largest adventure resort in North America by The Travel Channel, based on the number of guests it accommodates, the size of its facility and the number of outdoor adventures it accommodates.

For more information on the educational programs, visit http://www.aceraft.com/groups/junior-high-and-high-schools

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