NCOAE Recommends

Engaging Teens in the Outdoors

By Stephen Mullaney May 17, 2021

NCOAE Recommends

Getting your child or teen to look up from their smartphone, put down their Xbox controllers, or step away from the TV can be a chore — and that’s just when you’re calling them to dinner.

Mention taking a walk around the block or joining the family on a picnic a local park and witness the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

If you look at our nation’s history since the end of World War II, you see that service men and women returned to the United States and began to grow families. These households scrimped and saved to purchase such luxuries as high-fidelity stereo systems, black and white television sets, and a second car. Most of these new items enabled folks to enjoy life indoors, or drive to the drugstore instead of walking.

Fast forward 75 years and we find that families — and especially teens — have dozens of electronics devices at hand, each able to deliver entertainment from the comfort of their couch or bedroom.

So, how do we as families, let alone as a nation, compete with all these shiny handheld toys and devices, and get our kids out of the house and into the outdoors? When I was young, I was tossed out of the house early in the morning. I would jump on a skateboard or bike and search out the wild side of urban landscapes.

Not so today. Below, I’ve listed four action verbs that can get the ball rolling toward get kids interested in exiting their indoor surroundings.

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Success is Just Getting Out There: Re-ignite Your Inner Beginner – Part 3

By Stephen Mullaney January 15, 2021

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On a recent early morning bike ride along some local wooded trails, I happen to stumble upon the greatest of beginners: a group of children playing with rocks, moss, and whatever “loose parts” they could lay their hands on. I smile and ride right past them, unwilling to break the spell.

But then I spot the father and we exchange “good mornings,” before I squeeze the brakes on my bike and come to a halt. I know this particular man and he just so happens to be a passionate member of the outdoor- and adventure-based experiential education community. And since I had been musing on how to approach this — the third installment of the NCOAE Re-ignite Your Inner Beginner series — bumping into this man on the bike trail was perfect!  

Scott Schnieder, Senior Lecturer – Department of Health and Exercise Studies — N.C. State University

The father’s name is Scott Schneider, and he’s a well-known senior lecturer of Outdoor Leadership at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He teaches courses in backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, basic canoeing, and challenge course programming, to name a few.

Scott is also a certified American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) guide with a Single Pitch instructor (SPI) designation to his credit, a Leave No Trace (LNT) trainer, Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and an Association of Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) certified challenge course manager.

Grabbing up my phone and turning on the mic, I asked Scott a few questions about staying fresh, excited, and teachable in the field. Here’s what he had to say:

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Running as Exploration? Re-ignite Your Inner Beginner — Part 2

By NCOAE Headquarters January 6, 2021

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Francis Bacon, the Renaissance statesman and philosopher best known for his promotion of the scientific method, is credited with the expression, “Knowledge is power.” But to those of us who prefer to see a world bathed in fresh new adventures, knowledge can actually be a curse.

Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we encourage our students to take an adventure first / educational always approach to discovering new experiences; to become beginners at something fresh. Attempting something new promotes a growth mindset. It reminds us to reflect on our education expertise and empathize with those we teach and lead on first-time adventures. And it keeps us from getting stale.

In this, the second installment of the benefits associated with discovering new human-powered outdoor challenges, we’d like to introduce Christine Fantini, who has toiled for years in our industry as a guide and outdoor educator. For a good chunk of her career, Christine was a sailing instructor in Massachusetts, eventually becoming director of sailing programs for the Town of Yarmouth. She helped create OWLS (Outdoors We Learn to Succeed) in Durham, N.C.’s public schools.

Photo: Christine Fantini

In addition, Christine is a certified Kripalu yoga instructor, bringing yoga to children in inner city schools, and she also taught bilingual classes within the Latino community. She has explored the wilderness by hiking, bouldering, climbing, biking, and paddling.

And now, after years of wandering around the woods, exploring off trail, “getting lost” on purpose, and once being lifted off her feet by 90 mph winds on a mountain trek, Christine is igniting her inner beginner by exploring a fresh, new pursuit. This North Carolina-based educator has taken up running as a new means of exploration.

Why running? We asked Christine to explain to us why she would abandon other human-powered outdoor pursuits in which she has had much success in order to run. Here’s what she said:

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Outdoor Activities Getting Stale? Re-ignite Your Inner Beginner

By Stephen Mullaney December 18, 2020

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They say you never forget your first kiss. And while that’s very sweet and sometimes even true, the point I’m going to attempt to make is this:

If you’re an avid surfer, rock climber, or backcountry enthusiast, there are times when you look back on your first epic outdoor adventure. Sometimes it’s with a grin, and sometimes it’s with a grimace.

What we’re going to do in the next couple of posts in this new series here on the NCOAE blog is to ask you to consider rebooting your minds and think back to your initial foray into your favorite human-powered outdoor adventures.

Maybe you remember paddling into your first wave and just lying on the board until the person next to you leans over and says, “Hey, jump to your feet without thinking about it. It’s easy.” And so, you do — and you’re amazed how effortlessly it was. And it’s been 10 seconds and you’re still standing up, riding the foam, wondering where that sense of balance came from.

Same for the time you put on your climbing gear and successfully made your way up a challenging route. Or paddled your kayak straight toward a stretch of angry rapids.

Is it the adrenalin rush that got you hooked on your particular activity in the first place? Was it the ever-pleasant dopamine blast? More important, do you still get that feeling of excitement every time you participate in that activity or has it become routine?

If your answer is in the affirmative, head out and continue to do your thing. However, if the thrill is gone, or greatly reduced, keep reading.

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Using Collective Impact to Forge a Path Forward with Coronavirus

By NCOAE Headquarters May 22, 2020

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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: (more…)

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Here’s the Cold Facts about Canyon Coolers — in Our Opinion

By NCOAE Headquarters March 5, 2020

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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 face and said that their stuff would keep ice “on ice” for a mind-blowing 11 days.

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Have any further questions about our courses, what you’ll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we’re here to help!