“Look where you want to go!”
I have conveyed this message to wilderness course participants countless times, shouting, screaming, and using hand signals when necessary. Sometimes I’m yelling above the roar of a set of rapids or the sound of an adjacent waterfall.
“Look where you want to go!”
I emphatically issue the same advice while watching climbers rappelling down a cliff, or verbally guiding a student on a mountain bike through a sketchy section of trail. In each case, the point of my shouting is to get the students to stop looking at the obstacle.
“Look where you want to go” really translates as “Stop looking at the obstacle! Don’t fixate on the hazard!”
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a Wilderness First Responder approaching the scene of a backcountry incident, or a student on a wilderness course attempting to navigate a perceived hazard or obstacle, looking too closely at a hazard you want to avoid can be very dangerous.
At first glance — no pun intended — you might think it wise to actually look closely at the hazard you want to avoid. No argument there. You absolutely need to identify obstacles, especially in the backcountry and other places considered Wilderness. In fact, identifying an obstacle is a key factor in remaining safe.
But here’s the thing: (more…)
Zac Adair, our co-founder and executive director, recently asked one of our course
participants why they signed up for a particular outdoor adventure. “It was a photo that
appeared on your website of a guy on top of a mountaintop with the blue skies above the
glaciers in the background.”
Picture yourself here. It’s a common tactic in all great marketing campaigns. If after
seeing an advertisement, you can picture yourself wearing a specific shirt, driving a
particular truck, or vacationing on a cruise ship that’s making its way to the Bahamas,
then the team of marketers responsible for those ads has done their job.
Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education — where we’re focused
on designing and guiding outdoor and adventure education experiences that promote
personal growth, professional development, and stewardship in our community and the
natural environment — we employ the same tactics. Take one look at our website and
you’ll see photographs and videos featuring real NCOAE students participating in the
very courses and trainings that we offer around the globe.
So, it’s little wonder that these videos and photos prompt our website visitors to picture
themselves on one of our backcountry adventures. But here’s the thing that may escape
such a casual or initial thought. That picture of a (more…)
Late last year, the staff at Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, North Carolina, asked for our help in creating a unique and meaningful 10-day, outdoor and adventure-based out-of-country expedition for a handful of its high school students.
In particular, Cape Fear’s educational leaders were looking for a diverse destination that would enable their students to immerse themselves deeply in a new culture — an adventure that would extend far beyond selfies, social media, suntan oil, and sand — and which would reinforce the school’s own values and curriculum. Known for designing and leading custom outdoor education programs for private and independent schools, we were happy to help!
The original Cape Fear Academy was established in 1868 as an independent school for boys. After closing in 1916, the school was reestablished 52 years later in 1968 with the commitment of “forging capable young adults with skills, confidence and resilience to take risks, solve problems and overcome challenges.”
So, it was with that focus in mind that the school asked us here at The National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education (NCOAE) to custom design an expedition for nine of the school’s students, along with a chaperone from the school and three NCOAE field instructors. Their destination? Ecuador.
Our staff prepared an itinerary that incorporated the school’s objectives of instilling confidence, facing challenges, taking on informed risks, and solving problems. After all, those missives mirror the (more…)
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 and hopefully temporary wilderness is the Internet, where we continue the exploration of creativity and the delivery of instruction.(more…)
Outdoor and adventure-based education programs are designed to take students out of their home environment and place them in outdoor settings where they can experience adventures — adventures that highlight challenges, the need for having empathy for others, as well as the need to develop characteristics that can result in a new generation of community leaders and stewards of our environmental resources.
A huge task to be sure, but one of the ideas behind everything we do here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), is that our students (and adult course participants) will walk out of the backcountry feeling stronger — both mentally and physically.
Following an adventure-based experiential education experience, we tell those we teach and guide that they are now better-prepared to go out and apply what they have learned in order to protect the natural environment, improve their own communities, and accept the challenges and rigors associated with their own education. But what happens when high school seniors brush themselves off at the end of such an adventure and decide they want to make that move to enroll in a college or university, only to discover the doors are shut to them.
What if the obstacles to their future success include (more…)
When the busy season for summer-based outdoor education programming winds down, many in the outdoor education community may have found themselves returning to other avocations and means to make a living. For those of us who remain in the field of education — albeit in a more traditional setting — we continue what we know to be “best practices” as teachers.
“Classroom” is not a word we’re at all excited about. The hum of the fluorescent lights is like something out of a horror movie. And the designs of the windows seem to be lifted from a prison architect’s plan book.
Students make it outdoors only for recess, and that depends entirely on how much the teacher enjoys the outdoors. Otherwise, teachers and students alike are stocked away inside most of the day. At some schools, the physical education teacher doesn’t even take students outdoors.
All of this is a difficult reality for those of you who just spent three months each summer with students exploring wilderness and outdoor environs.
Experiential education, place-based learning, project-based learning, and adventure education — the list goes on and on. Schools use these terms to sell themselves. Read the descriptions published by public schools, charter schools and independent schools across the country and you’ll (more…)