Hemlock Overlook: A New Name and New Adult Learning Center

Posted: August 9, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Mason’s Hemlock Overlook Center for Experiential Education recently changed part of its name to more accurately reflect its mission.

Formerly known as the Center for Outdoor Education, Hemlock, which is located in Clifton, Va., and operated as a joint venture with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, offers team building education in an outdoor setting.

“The center does not offer outdoor activities that are commonly associated with outdoor recreation, such as rock climbing, kayaking and white water rafting,” Hemlock Overlook director Susan Johnson explains. “The phrase ‘Experiential Education’ is more in line with the center’s mission to facilitate, educate and involve individuals and organizations through experiential team building and environmental education while fostering growth and leadership development.”

Last year, Hemlock Overlook launched the Center for Professional Development, a new division that focuses on adult learning and professional organizations to help foster leadership skills, communication and team development.

The Center for Professional Development offers different two options for participating professional organizations: Total Team Challenge or the Team Development Course. The unique challenges facing the organization, their phase of team development and the desired results will determine which program suits the organization the best.

The Total Team Challenge, the newest addition to Hemlock Overlook, merges the individual accomplishment of traversing a 30-foot-high vertical apparatus with a team-building experience. This program can be tailored to mimic client relationships, office layouts or the organizational structure of the company. While some group members are suspended in midair, others are part of the ground crew, guiding and supporting their suspended teammates to help them complete the course.

“The group is given an objective and then divided into teams to work through logistics, resource allocation, rules and regulations, and to coordinate human capital. As the activity progresses, the group will gain a new perspective on how they work — and could work better — as a team,” according to the Hemlock Overlook web site.

The other option, the Team Development Course, is devised of customized activities that require problem solving skills, teamwork, individual commitment, and cooperative action. As each activity is completed, the group faces a different challenge, the stakes get higher and the intensity increases. This situation results in a greater understanding of the group dynamics and strengths, creating opportunities for development.

Hemlock Overlook is open six days a week throughout the year to serve organizations such as public and private schools, religious groups, sports teams and professional organizations, as well as local, state and federal government and military agencies. Many groups and departments from Mason have participated in Hemlock programs.

Hemlock serves approximately 25,000 people a year, making it the largest, most popular challenge course in the country. The Hemlock Overlook staff has worked with hundreds of organizations to facilitate active learning, promote team development, encourage communication and develop new skills for working together.

More information and registration is available at the Hemlock Overlook: Center for Experiential Education web site.

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