Because of the situation with COVID-19, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about the path forward for outdoor and adventure-based programs like the ones we offer here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE). Specifically, how do we operate in a day and age where physical distancing is either required or strongly recommended? That’s where Collective Impact may come into play.
The concept of Collective Impact takes into consideration the notion that industry players need to coordinate their efforts and work together in order to create lasting solutions to shared and common societal challenges and problems.
Put simply, collective impact is a structured form of collaboration. The term garnered national recognition in 2011 when it was touted by the White House Council for Community Solutions as a powerful framework for solving social issues. The concept became so popular that “collective impact” was selected as among the top philanthropic “buzzwords” for that year.
With the current conundrum of coronavirus facing our world today, we here at NCOAE are of the opinion that solutions for COVID-19-related issues from any qualified source is worth considering. And, if you or your organization is of the same mind, we would love to hear from you. We can listen to each other’s challenges and maybe we can help each other discover solutions to those problems associated with operating an outdoor and/or adventure-based program in the time of coronavirus.
Since this crisis evolved in mid-February, we have been working up schedules and then reworking them. And, because our work crosses into many sectors — including schools, businesses, and government agencies — and because we deal with multiple states and international borders, we find ourselves dealing with a lot of moving parts.
The good news, of course, is that our staff has evolved to become a finely tuned machine. We’re able to juggle a lot and do it well. But that still leaves us wondering how the greater outdoor and adventure education industry may be grappling with the same or similar challenges as we’re contending with.
As most successful adventurers and explorers do, we set out to do some research. And here is some of what we’ve discovered so far:
So, here we all sit, settling into another sequential week of sequestered sheltering and supreme seclusion, many of us working from home and many of us not. As a certified teacher with a license in EC, ESL, AIG and Classroom Education, and as a member of The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE) leadership team, I admit I was caught off balance by the virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes, named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Like getting smacked upside the head by a wayward surfboard.
This stay-at-home edict forced me to search, find, and deliver a completely new approach to educating my students. And I had zero time to waste. There were students to contact. More important — I had to learn ways to communicate with them face to face and get them engaged through online platforms. And I felt the pressure to do all of this ASAP!
I quickly discovered that my side was already behind — and hindered by handicaps. The major hurdle? I have never owned a cell phone. Essentially, I’m a caveperson. Then I remembered what it is we outdoor and adventure educators constantly preach to our students: Step out of your comfort zone and adapt in the time of coronavirus.
It was time for me to do just that. Over the first few weeks operating under shelter in place orders, I learned how to use Zoom for video conferencing and Google classroom for creating, distributing, and grading assignments in a paperless way. I also quickly adapted and learned how to use additional online platforms to connect with students, co-workers, and community members. And through this process, I learned that our new
Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we’re known nationally and around the world for our consistency in producing highly impactful backcountry climbing, backpacking, kayaking and other outdoor adventures of an educational and team-focused nature. Our highly trained and experienced outdoor educators, field guides — along with our wilderness medicine and EMT instructors — present hands on training and guidance that vastly improve our students’ technical outdoor and wilderness medical skills.
That’s because all of our instructors and guides are experts at adapting to every scenario — whether that’s in a wilderness or urban setting, presenting each of our students and participants with endless opportunities to not only succeed, but to excel at whatever obstacle confronts them on the trail or in the medical training field guides.
To that end, our business currently finds itself in the same situation faced by every other educational organization on the planet: managing our affairs at a time when the virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is impacting every single aspect of the world economy. How we’re handling the problem is much like what we do on the trail. We’ve chosen to look at this uncertainty and chaos as an opportunity by seeking out the best solutions and maneuvering around and past what is undoubtedly nothing short of a global health catastrophe. In particular, we want you to know how we’re meeting the challenges with regard to our educational training and programming.
Embedded in each of our outdoor and wilderness-based experiential education courses is the delivery of place-based learning, which was first introduced by David Sobel in his groundbreaking book, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities.
Place-based learning connects students to history, landscape, geography, and people through the intense exploration of a specific area which, along the way, serves to help solve the area’s inherent or most recent and/or chronic challenges.
Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), our field instructors are required to research and be knowledgeable about the history, ecology, people, and events that impact a course’s geographical areas. Instructors then share that information with each other, discussing how to tie data to parts of the NCOAE curriculum and/or a client’s Custom Program requirements.
Having this depth of knowledge binds content and curriculum. The result? No topic or subject is taught in isolation. For example, the study of flora and fauna connects to math, literacy, and science. And meeting and knowing people who helped shape the land through writings or active conservation of the area ties into global studies, communication, and environmental stewardship. In this way, place-based learning benefits educators, students, and communities. For instance:
Here at The National Center for Outdoor Adventure & Education (NCOAE), we just aren’t all that interested in touting the attributes of the materials and products we use while traversing the worldwide wilderness areas in which we work. But every once in a while, we’ll step back and look at a piece of outdoor gear that’s still holding up well despite its age and we say, “Damn, we’ve been hauling that thing around for longer than we can remember and it’s still working.”
In particular, we’re reminded of the Canyon Coolers that we have stored in various sheds and aboard our fleet of river boats and rafts, and we marvel at how well these coolers keep stuff cold after multiple years of use.
We were attracted to this Flagstaff, Arizona-based manufacturer when we bought up our first Canyon Cooler a number of years back. We were looking for a sturdy product that would hold up to our strenuous schedule of river trips.
(Image © Canyon Coolers / Clara Canyon, LLC)
As background, we run guided trips and outdoor educator courses on a number of rivers, including the Deschutes River in in central Oregon (a major tributary of the Columbia River); the Grande Ronde River in northeastern Oregon (a tributary of the Snake River); tributaries of the Amazon River found in Ecuador; and in many other waterways across the globe.
What we were thinking back then was that we need a bomb-proof cooler that would hold up to the challenges any gear undertakes on one of our outings. But you know what really sold us on Canyon Coolers? It was their attitude.
They stood there, looked us right in the
Most successful outdoor retailers take monthly, quarterly, and/or an annual inventory of what they have in stock, what needs to be replaced, and what might need to be added to the store’s shelves. Items that sit ignored on the shelf or are no longer in fashion go in the “50% Off” bin or “sale” rack, enabling the retailer to make space for the newest and greatest products.
That practice of practical paring holds true for those of us who enjoy human-powered outdoor adventures and are, even now, preparing for the trails, climbs, and river rapids that we anticipate and dream about each winter.
And chief among those preparations is a thorough consideration of the current contents of our backpacks. The idea is simple: How do you lighten your load for your next adventure, feel less stressed when packing, and maybe offer free and still useful gear to a friend or local outdoor-based organization in need?
It’s time to “clean house.” And by that we mean pull your gear out and place it all on the ground, inspect it, and discard those items you can do without. In fact, here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education, we offer a number of courses that, among other things, show participants the ABCs of backpacking — which includes properly packing a backpack.
One important part of our courses is when participants “explode” their pack in front of their peers. Typically, the group circles up and