BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's a Baton Rouge loop that everyone can agree on. It won't relieve traffic or shorten your drive home, but for students at Baton Rouge Career Academy, it's changing the way kids learn.
LOOP stands for Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program. It's sponsored by the Office of State Parks, and it's designed to get inner-city kids out of their comfort zone to teach them communication, team-building and leadership skills.
On Thursday, they put it all to the test in a series of outdoor events. According to LOOP Director Erin Sullivan, canoeing and hiking at the BREC's Greenwood Park in Baker, helps them conquer fears of new experiences and builds confidence. "In the beginning of the year, it was a confidence about how tough they were. At the end of the year, it's confidence in, 'I just finished canoeing!'"
It's not the normal activity for kids like Jordan Robinson who lives in Glen Oaks. "You don't normally see this in my neighborhood, and your really don't work with other people like this."
Carlonda Guerin, from Brookstown, has never been in the woods. "I don't come outside much. If I do, I just sit in front of the door." For her, hiking was the big draw. Counselors led students through trails around the park teaching them how to use a compass, and presenting challenges along the way, like getting all of their team members over an imaginary electric fence.
The day's big challenge was a race; boys against girls, to solve riddles and work as a team. "The competitive nature of it forces them to use the skills we've worked on all year; problem solving, conflict resolution, working on leadership." said Sullivan. "Somebody's got to step up and be in the leadership position, or else everything completely crumbles."
These experiences translate to better performance in the classroom according to Principal Pamela Mackie. "What LOOP did during the school year, helping build up their confidence, and being able to approach something they've never done before, that goes on in math class. When you approach that geometry problem and it looks daunting, you stick with it. You don't become fearful of it. You don't stop until you get it."
Sullivan says she hopes to expand LOOP next year.