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Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA Berkshire Outdoor Center

BOC > Programs & Activities > School Programs > By Focal Point > Leadership Development




Our leadership programs are designed to help students:

  • develop relationships with one another - get to know and understand one another, as well as trust one another
  • develop a better understanding of themselves - get to know what fears they can overcome, develop some self-confidence and self-esteem and gain peer support
  • develop their communication skills - learn when to speak, when to listen, how to rephrase what you're trying to say, how to speak up our quieten down at the right moments
  • develop their skills as a leader and follower -when to step up, when to step back, how to collaborate and be all-inclusive, how to solicit ideas from the group, that being a leaders is not about being the loudest or the one with all the ideas, but how to use the combined power of all members of the team


SEL Leadership Development Program

A program for students in sixth grade and up

Leadership Development is our most popular program package. These educational programs for schools, colleges, youth groups and adult groups emphasize teamwork, cooperation, communication and leadership skills, through physical, mental and emotional challenges and risk-taking. These activities take place in a cooperative, community environment and emphasize the relationship between self and the group.

Typically, our Leadership Development programs incorporate High Ropes or Alpine Tower, teambuilding, low ropes activities, and some recreational adventure activities (giving students time to debrief themselves and process their intense sessions). We have specifically designed packages that can be tailored by you as much or as little as you need.

The Leadership Development packages are designed for students in 7th-12th grade and for college students and adults. Our staff are exceptional at matching the specific activities and debriefing techniques to the particular age group they are working with.

All activities at Berkshire Outdoor Center have been matched with the curriculum frameworks of MA, CT and NY State. Each of the activities satisfies objectives within these curricula.


Peer Leadership Program

A program for Freshmen and Seniors

This program requires a select group of seniors, usually in a peer leadership program at the school, to attend a three day pre-retreat training workshop at our facilities, prior to the freshmen attending their leadership development retreat.

Senior Pre-Retreat Training Workshop

At the beginning of school year, a select group of seniors who display attributes of a quality leader - such as through their work in a school peer leadership program - will be invited to attend a three-day pre-retreat workshop. They will learn basic and more elaborate teambuilding techniques, as well as learning to facilitate on our state-of-the-art Challenge Course – both low and high elements. Students will become Assistant Challenge Course Facilitators and will learn how to teach canoeing and archery. They will be refreshed in behavior management, teaching strategies, and will learn basic ecology. The greatest opportunity and experience for these seniors will be working directly with the freshmen retreat. The seniors will be the lead instructor for the freshmen (with 1:1 Berkshire Outdoor Center staff support). They will participate as facilitators.

Freshmen Leadership Development Retreat

A trip for all ninth grade students, with a strong emphasis on developing leadership skills. Students will develop important life skills, such as taking responsibility, communicating and collaborating, compromising, providing peer support and being trustworthy. Engaging in teambuilding will develop confidence, self-esteem and trust – transforming their lives as individuals and members of a group at a pivotal moment in their childhood.

Throughout their senior year, the senior peer leaders will be invited to work for BOC as Assistant Program Instructors. These positions will be on key weekends, such as Work Weekend, Alumni Weekend and Family Camps. They will be paid a stipend and transportation to and from school will be provided. This opportunity will encourage them to continue to develop their leadership skills, particularly in outdoor education.


Sample of Our Most Popular Activities

High Ropes - Berkshire Outdoor Center has the most comprehensive educational challenge course in the North-Eastern United States. We have two High Ropes courses that employ triple-check belaying systems whereby harnessed participants climb to the top of elements constructed on power poles. One of our courses focuses on individual achievement, building of self-confidence and self-esteem; the other requires the entire team to help climbers achieve the goals of the course. Elements include Quadraphenia, Ship's Crossing, Burma Bridge, Cat Walk and the Zip Line. Participants must be 12 years or older to participate.

Alpine Tower - The Alpine Tower provides participants with the same challenges as climbing and traditional high ropes elements. Each person will be aided with safety gear and a staff member while they ascend the tower and its obstacles. The Alpine Tower is designed to allow participants to choose their own goals for success, and can be a highly rewarding experience for anyone. Participants must be 12 years or older in order to use the Alpine Tower.

Low Ropes - This course is designed to provide challenges for a group of 10-15 students, involving group work, cooperation, and effective communication skills. Certain elements on the low ropes course can be physically challenging. It is a great activity on its own or as an introduction to challenge course work for those groups planning on participating in High Ropes.

Teambuilding - Using a series of trust building activities, physical obstacles and non-physical challenges, the initiative sessions focus on cooperation, effective communication and the development of trust between individuals within a group.

Climbing Towers - Each facility has a climbing tower for students to learn the basic elements of climbing skills, as well as to experience the belay safety system. Our climbing towers are designed to provide a variety of difficulty and skill levels and to challenge each participant. Participants must be 8 years or older in order to use the Climbing Towers.

Indoor Climbing Wall - Our Chimney Corners Campus Dining Hall has an incredible 30ft climbing wall built inside it! It is perfect for students to learn the basic elements of rock climbing skills, as well as to experience the belay safety system. Our climbing wall is designed to provide a variety of difficulty and skill levels, to challenge each participant. Participants must be 8 years or older in order to use the Climbing Wall.

Zingers - Time management is crucial in this fast-paced, action-packed game. Students are divided into teams and travel from station to station, with each station consisting of a high energy task. Teamwork and fun are emphasized in this activity.

Outdoor Living Skills -Safe fire building, shelter building, and knot tying are all covered and practiced in Outdoor Living Skills. Students will get the chance to go out into the woods and try their hand at these skills while learning a bit of what it takes to get along in the wilderness. They will also learn the basics of staying warm in winter and cool in summer.

The Beast - This activity can be taught either as a class or as a large group activity. The students are shown a model of “the Beast” and asked to duplicate it. However, the student who sees the model is not the student who does the building. The Beast focuses on effective communication and working together.

Alpha Beta -This fun game can be taught as a class or with a large group. The students will play the role of a member of either Alpha-land or Beta-land society, and throughout the game will gain an understanding of cultural differences and learn to break down some cultural barriers.

Campfire - Our talented staff can get your campfire off to a roaring start with stories, songs and skits that will entertain young and old alike. Camper skits and songs are welcome and encouraged. This activity is a great way to end the day!

These are just some of our fantastic activities. We strongly recommend breaking up some of the 'intense' activity options with some recreational activities, such as canoeing or kayaking, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating (all weather dependent).


Philosophy of Challenge by Choice

Berkshire Outdoor Center follows the popular philosophy of Challenge By Choice. While participants are encouraged to participate in the activities, each participant chooses his or her own goals and challenges for the course. Participants are never coerced or required to participate. Participants choose their own level of participation - encouraged only to consider stepping outside their comfort zone. Facilitators assist in helping participants experience some level of success.


Leadership Development Staff

Our instructors are the best asset to our programs. A diverse range of staff from a variety of countries return year after year to run our Leadership Development programs. The extensive cultural diversity and interesting perspective each of them brings to our organization and to our guests is truly an exceptional contribution to the programs. And our seasoned veterans are the best staff in their field, passionate about living and working here in the Berkshires. Read customer feedback

Berkshire Outdoor Center staff are well trained in managing our ropes course elements as part of our Leadership Development Program. All staff are trained by our qualified trainers and assessed by outside trainers. Our trainings comply with Association of Challenge Course Technology Standards (, American Camp Association standards ( and Massachusetts State Standards (

Our staff are certified to operate, belay and administer programs on all of our challenge courses, Alpine Tower and Climbing Tower. They are also certified to perform safety procedures and rescues in the rare occurence such a procedure may be needed.


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748 Hamilton Road, Becket, MA 01223
Tel: (413) 623-8991 | Fax: (413) 623-5890