MAPLEWOOD, NJ – A group of students hoisted Schools Superintendent Brian Osborne in the air – but they did not get into trouble for playing a prank on the administrator.

Osborne was demonstrating one element of Project Adventure, the newest addition to what the physical education department offers at Columbia High School, which was unveiled recently.

“I can’t be more excited, and I never thought that was possible,” Supervisor of Physical Education and Health Judy LoBianco said on Wednesday.  “(Today is) one of the most exciting days in the history of physical education in South Orange/ Maplewood schools.”

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The elective course will be offered to students in grades 10 through 12 and features 29 different elements designed to teach students about cooperation, teamwork and communication by creating challenges for the students to overcome.

“This is a unique opportunity where they can experience experiential learning; they are in the parade, they are not watching it,” said Heidi Hawryluk, one of the Project Adventure teachers. “We provide experiences where all students can leave their comfort zone and go beyond what they thought they were capable of. This challenge course enables all students regardless of where they are starting from.”

The course cost $190,000 and was funded entirely through the Federal Physical Education for Progress Grant the South Orange/Maplewood School District received on July 7, 2009, in the amount of $1.24 million.

“I cannot think of a better way to bring to a close our Federal Physical Education for Progress Grant than with this completely revised and enhanced Project Adventure course,” Superintendent Brian Osborne said. “On the new Project Adventure course, our 10th- through 12th-graders work together to foster communication, decision making, risk taking, trust and teamwork. This is an amazing opportunity for our student to develop the attributes that they need to be successful in college and career and in life.”

In announcing the new Project Adventure course, the fifth-period class and members of the faculty showed off some of the elements of the course. SOMA Board of Education President Beth Daugherty and Assistant Superintendent for Administration Jim Memoli went down the new zip line, while students started climbing the new redesigned warped climbing wall.

Osborne demonstrated the Flying Squirrel element of the course where he was lifted into the air by a group of students who sent him aloft using a pulley mounted at the top of the course.

“You have no idea how great it is to be a part of a school with such a unique and exciting physical education program,” student Kyle Sun said. “I have been in this class three times and every experience I have in this class is a new adventure and now with the new course, I really can’t wait to embark on the next new adventure.”

The Project Adventure class will accommodate 28 students at a time and will be offered year round, including in the winter months, to add different elements. LoBianco also noted that Project Adventure was the most desired class by students.

 “As a teacher and an instructional leader, there is a desire to want to look back on your career wanting to know you made a difference in the lives young people,” LoBianco said. “You want to leave your mark, your signature, and let people know that your labor of love is to transform the educational landscape into something positive and meaningful for our kids.”

Steve Valenti is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.