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COPE Program

Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience Project C.O.P.E. is a series of inter-related events that challenge on an individual and group level. Events are divided into four categories: initiative games, trust events, low elements and high elements. Project C.O.P.E. has seven objectives:

  1. Teamwork - The key that allows a group to meet a COPE challenge successfully. The COPE experience makes it clear that each individual can accomplish more as a member of a team than going it alone.
  2. Self Confidence - Meeting the challenges of a COPE course allows individuals and groups to develop self-esteem and encourages them to adopt challenging attainable goals.
  3. Trust - Participants completing difficult tasks on a COPE course develop trust in COPE staff members, the safety of the course, each other and themselves.
  4. Leadership - Leadership is given and assumed naturally, and can be expressed in many ways. Team members attempting to solve problems on a COPE course have many opportunities to develop and exercise leadership skills.
  5. Communication - Project COPE encourages real learning of critical listening and discussion skills important for any group attempting to accomplish difficult tasks.
  6. Decision Making - Project COPE requires groups to make decisions by developing one or more solutions to a problem, considering the available resources and alternatives, and evaluating the possible results.
  7. Problem Solving - Project COPE challenges groups and individuals to develop solutions to interesting problems. Participants can then test their solutions and evaluate the results.


C.O.P.E. was originated within the Boy Scouts of America at Camp Geiger, in the Pony Express Council, in the late 1970's under the direction of Parvin Bishop, then Scout Executive. Bishop later became Director of Program at the National Office and is currently Regional Director, Southern Region. C.O.P.E.'s origins are often traced back to European efforts.

A Project C.O.P.E. course is operated under the oversight of a volunteer committee including National Camp School-certified directors. C.O.P.E. courses are built the strict standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology and operated only under the direction of NCS-certified individuals. Standards of safety are stressed at every level of the course.

Project C.O.P.E. courses typically include open areas for games and trust events, and a series of "low" and "high" elements. The concept of 'challenge by choice' encourages each person to participate fully while maintaining the right to 'opt-out' of any individual part of the program.

Games introduce teamwork concepts while also serving as warm-up exercises. Trust events further the teamwork development while also developing risk-taking from low to higher levels.

Low elements can include a wall, spider web, and other cable and rope combinations that involve teamwork relatively close to the ground. High elements are generally individual events involving climbing to heights of 20-30 feet, crossing cables, etc. Each element -- low or high -- is carefully spotted or belayed to minimize danger while still challenging the individuals to challenge personal levels of risk-taking.

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