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Understanding the Fall Exercise

What is the Fall Exercise?

One of the most unique and important activities that we have at Robert Land Academy (RLA) is the Fall Exercise.  The event which takes places the week before Thanksgiving sees all of the students at RLA complete a 3 day, 70 km hike in and around the Bruce Trail (on the first two days) and from Fort George to Queenston Heights on the last day.  The Exercise takes place no matter the weather – the 30C humid day or the 18C day with wind and rain.  The weather makes one feel uncomfortable and really does not affect the student and their task of completing the march.

Our school is joined by participants from military schools in the United States, specifically Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina and Paul Brown Leadership Academy in North Carolina.  As well, we have 2 – 3 Guardsmen from New Mexico also join us.  These other groups that join do so for the challenge but also due to the friendships and fellowship that we share amongst our groups.

The last day of the exercise is special, as we take time to remember those who defended Fort George and who fought in the Battle of Queenston Heights. We do this by having a military parade at Queenston Heights and pulling a canon along the Niagara Parkway, which is then used in the parade. 

Why do we conduct a Fall Exercise?

The program at RLA has physical training as one of its foundation pieces.  When boys arrive, they are often out of shape or at the least not in the best physical shape they can be in.  During the first 3 – 4 weeks staff attempts to have these boys focus on their physical training that is:  running, hiking, completing push ups and sit ups with goal of preparing themselves to complete the Fall Exercise.

The Fall Exercise is truly a teachable moment where a student learns a lot about himself (physically and mentally), how to rely on others and the value and importance of training for a goal which is then accomplished.  The Fall Exercise is uncomfortable, difficult, draining and yet invigorating – in particular when you reach a goal, the end of a day and the end of the exercise.  It is an accomplishment and no matter what else you do or don’t do in your life you can always look back and say “yes I accomplished that”.

To most of our students completing a 70 km exercise over 3 days is unimaginable, so when they are able to complete this activity and are acknowledged for doing so, it is amazing to see them take pride in this accomplishment. This experience provides them with a great deal of confidence that can be transferred into the classroom and onto the playing fields or gymnasiums.

What do our students learn (or gain) from the Fall Exercise?

- anything is possible.
- that goals which may seem difficult can be made possible by preparing and putting in effort.
- greater sense of confidence in their ability
- greater sense of pride in their accomplishment
- that any goal takes hard work
- there is a difference between being uncomfortable and being injured
- that often completing a task take both a physical and mental approach to it

The Fall Exercise is an example of how RLA and its staff helps to support young men who need a challenging, yet structured and supportive environment.  If you and your son believe this may be the best learning environment check out our website at: we still have some spaces available in certain grades. 

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