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NCOAE Curriculum

NCOAE Embraces Place-Based Learning

By NCOAE Headquarters March 17, 2020

NCOAE Curriculum

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.

Place-based Learning photo

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: (more…)

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Leave No Trace Figures Big in NCOAE’s Curriculum

By NCOAE Headquarters November 3, 2017

NCOAE Curriculum

We’re sure the good folks over at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics know this, but tt was Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the father of Boy Scouting, who coined the phrase, “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.”

This retired British Army officer and founder of the scouting movement was adamant about improving the environment back in 1910 — especially on the trail — and his rule was later revised to, “Always leave the campground cleaner than you found it.”

We here at The National Center for Outdoor Adventure & Education (NCOAE) are big fans of this “First Chief Scout,” who among many other wilderness rules, principles and musings, once said, “A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.”

Figuratively speaking, that’s a page right out of our own curriculum.

Experiencing the outdoors outside far surpasses any classroom study or indoor book reading on the topic of (more…)

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Thoughts on NCOAE’s 2016 ‘Instructor Candidate’ Workshop

By Office Admin January 22, 2016

NCOAE Curriculum

By Stephen Mullaney, NCOAE Staff Development Director

When The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) got together to host a multi-day “invitation only” event for instructional candidates, we took the same care as we would when building a campfire.

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As a rule, wood doesn’t burn on its own. It’s the gases released, along with a combination of oxygen and ignition that creates the flame. What you need, in fact, is quality fuel, oxygen and ignition.

Here at NCOAE, we have developed, over a period of time, a curriculum that goes well beyond the industry standard and synthesizes best practices that work in wilderness and beyond. Our outdoor education curriculum is our fuel, and it’s the finest fuel to support the courses we offer to students, educators and communities. However, it’s the thought, passion and effort we put into constant improvement that provides the (more…)

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Understanding The NCOAE Curriculum, Part 4

By Office Admin September 5, 2014

NCOAE Curriculum

Judging from the headline atop this particular blog post, you can gather that this is the fourth in a series of posts about the curriculum we offer here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE). And if you haven’t taken a look at the first three installments, it would behoove you to do so (see: Getting to the Core of the NCOAE Curriculum, Part 1; Getting to the Core of the NCOAE Curriculum, Part 2; and, Understanding the NCOAE Curriculum, Part 3).

CurriculumPost4GraphicBIn those three posts, as well as this final chapter on the topic, we discuss the deeper social topics that are covered in our educational groups (Ed Groups), which are a key component to the delivery of our one-of-a-kind curriculum.

As background, it’s important to note that the objective of our curriculum is to assist in the development of skills that will help our course participants’ to become even better citizens of the world. That’s a lofty objective, but in our mind, it hovers way above what we can teach about map & compass reading and basic camp craft (which of course we do teach, as well). Because without these particular “people skills,” interacting with others in any environment — outdoor adventures included — can become an unrewarding and unruly undertaking.

In past blog posts on this topic — and again, please read those before continuing forward on this last installment — we discussed such acquirable skills as conflict resolution, civic responsibility, feelings identification and defense mechanisms, to name a few. In this, our fourth and final curriculum series entry, topics include group decision-making, values clarification, stereotypes, critical thinking, and leadership qualities.

Let’s get the ball rolling with our seventh Ed Group topic — group decision making.

Making decisions at the group level can be (more…)

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The Importance Of Self At NCOAE

By Office Admin August 29, 2014

NCOAE Curriculum

We have a formula here at the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) and it reads like this: Self + Community + Action = Impact.

In fact, self is the backbone of what we do at NCOAE. It involves our esteem, self-actualization and the decisions we choose to make — all of which are important because we strive to establish a strong sense of esteem in everyone who participates in one of our outdoor education courses.

No matter what the outdoor activity, we provide course participants with countless opportunities to build and reinforce self-confidence. Take backpacking, for example. Here is an opportunity to look back on the trail and say, “I did this. It is an enormous feat in autonomy.” The same holds true for course participants who navigate whitewater for the first time in a raft, or scale up a vertical rock face, or successfully tuck into a tight tube on a surfboard.

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Any of these human-powered outdoor activities, when approached with confidence and a good attitude, can’t help but establish a strong sense of self. And getting to know yourself and your limits — actually understanding what it takes to battle through discomfort and arrive successfully at the other end — is a priceless commodity.

Going solo in the wilderness in a controlled scenario is another example that sets you up for successfully establishing a good relationship with yourself that can last a lifetime. Assisted by journal writings, Educational Groups and evening Process Groups, our course participants learn to (more…)

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Understanding the NCOAE Curriculum, Part 3

By Office Admin August 4, 2014

NCOAE Curriculum

It hasn’t been a speedy process but we continue be excited about the deep dive we’re offering up on the curriculum offered here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE).

As you might recall, our last blog post on this topic covered the educational group (Ed Group) topics of feelings identification, levels of communication/relationships and defense mechanisms. This time around we’re highlighting another batch of three Ed Group topics:

  • Relaxed x Stressed creative sign with clouds as the backgroundStress management
  • Clear communication = conflict resolution
  • Civic responsibility

Keep in mind that the big takeaway from all this curricula business, is not just to teach our students skills that enable them to become better climbers, hikers, surfers and rafters — but more important, to help them develop the ability to become better human beings and world citizens.

That’s why the NCOAE curriculum specifically deals with human skills. Because, let’s face it. Even on the trail, the honeymoon eventually comes to a screeching halt. And by honeymoon, we’re talking about those first few days of a wilderness excursion. We’re not going all Kumbaya on you, but that’s the time when everybody’s bubbly and happy and getting to know each other and enjoying the views. Problem is, group dynamics change — especially on an outdoor-based adventure.

And it’s most important that our course participants, whether they be preteens or upperclassmen, acquire the tools to deal with those dynamics when they emerge. Because they will emerge on both the trail and in the world from which they came.

So let’s start with our fourth Ed Group topic, stress management:

Outside of a traumatic event, stress usually builds up gradually, so when we arrive the point in an NCOAE course where expose participants to the stress management Ed Group, we ask them to describe personal situations where stress might have raised its ugly head. We ask them to tell us how they reacted — and dealt with stress in the past.

Then we conduct a few activities that offer participants a list of “triggers” and responses to those stresses. Students participate in a timed activity that (more…)

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