What is Constructive Adversity?

Constructive Adversity® is an experiential learning approach that uses adverse environments, as a supplement to learning cycles, to build character, promote ethical thinking, create lasting knowledge, and develop real-life skills.

During the immersion of a planned Constructive Adversity cycle, a learner expands their Growth Zone. As a result, kids become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

Why is This Important?

The world is full of curve balls. Our educational approach prepares them not only academically, but also for the dynamic world in which we live. They will feel confident to thrive in all kinds of situations.

In this video, our school’s Co-Founder Taylor Simmers breaks down the Constructive Adversity cycle.

Constructive Adversity Cycles

By repeatedly moving from their comfort zone to their growth zone and back to their comfort zone, students are effectively exercising and strengthening their ability to evolve and adapt to new, dynamic and challenging situations.

Through this cycle, students build confidence, self-reliance, and self-esteem as well as deepen their understanding of the subject matter at hand and find meaning and purpose in their work.

Examples of Constructive Adversity in Action


TEDx Presentations

Through our Constructive Adversity programs, our students do more than just study issues like climate change. They create solutions and then present them at TEDx presentations. This allows students to develop communication, courage (public speaking), and grace under pressure while learning about green energy.Watch one of the TEDx presentations here.


Canoeing at the US/Mexico Border

Students canoed 25 miles of the Colorado River as it winds along the US/Mexico border to gain a deep understanding of the issues on both sides of the fence. Read the full experience here.


Gathering Stream Data in Rain, Sleet, and Snow

A planned outing to the Truckee River to gather stream data turned into an unforeseen challenge when a fall rainstorm turned into snow. And just as their strength of character had shined through the sleet and snow, their courage and sense of adventure took them across the river, hand over hand, upside-down, only feet above the rushing river. Read more here.


Re-Living the Winter of 1847 as a Member of the Donner Party

We challenge our students to become a character from the pioneer movement. Costumes, accents, and props help bring the personalities to life. Students research members of the Donner Party and the subsequent events of their perilous struggle on Donner Summit. Watch a performance here.

The Science and Benefits of Constructive Adversity

Brain science shows:


  • Real world application of knowledge and skills
  • Builds character attributes
  • Authentic engagement and joy of learning

The world needs:

  • Problem solvers, stewards, fixers, and doers
  • Creators more so than consumers
  • People who can do good and can collaborate
  • People who can handle stress and be strategic and collaborative in challenging situations

The world is changing fast and schools are not

TEA Student

“There are few things in life that are as important as having good character. Friends, love, money, careers, and more will all come and go. How you react to and deal with those changes will stick with you for life.”