Zac Adair and Seeing the Backcountry Through a Soda Straw

By Office Admin June 20, 2015

Staff Profiles
Zac Adair NCOAE

It’s been a while since Zac Adair and his wife, Celine, co-founded The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), and while it would be nice to think they jumped into this challenging not-for-profit enterprise with eyes wide open, that wouldn’t be completely accurate.

Yes, going into it they had a great game plan. They had previously founded and run two other outdoor education organizations — a not-for-profit named Panacea Adventures, and the Adventure Education Institute (AEI) — which they merged to create NCOAE. But these North Carolina-based outdoor educators — raising their infant child — were working under a disadvantage that certainly couldn’t be ignored in the planning stages of NCOAE. And while some would consider it a major hurdle to their career plans, Zac and Celine saw it more as a nuisance.

So much so, in fact, that they haven’t felt it necessary to bring up the fact that Zac — a veteran surfer, rock climber, whitewater river guide and outdoors program business manager — lost the majority of his vision when he was struck on his bicycle by an automobile back in 2003.

And now, more than a dozen years later, he has less than 2 percent vision left (in just one eye) and he describes that vision through his good eye as, “seeing the world through a soda straw.”

The accident happened in Nags Head, N.C., in the late summer of 2003 while Zac was riding home on his bicycle after a session in the surfline. He was struck by a taxi traveling at 59 miles per hour. Zac was on life support for a full week. His cervical spine was broken in four places, his right leg was broken, he suffered severe right scapula damage, and as a result of the trauma, a year later he lost 98 percent of his vision in one eye, and 100 percent of his vision in his other eye.

Zac Adair Executive Director NCOAE

Not many people — even those closely associated with NCOAE — are aware of Zac’s blindness, nor is it something the couple really cares to have bandied about. In fact, few of the course and training participants who meet Zac at NCOAE headquarters in Wilmington prior to departing for a local trip have any notion that our co-founder is legally blind.

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How To Help Provide Outdoor Experiences for Youth in Need

By Office Admin May 22, 2015


At first glance, our website might lead the casual observer to surmise that our organization, The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), is just another run-of-the-mill for-profit business. The kind of outfit where the owners get rich by running adventure-based trips for children from well-to-do families to exotic destinations around the globe. Truth is, nothing could be further from the truth.


While we welcome anyone — regardless of their socioeconomic standing or means — to enroll in our courses, we take great pride in making all of those courses affordable and accessible to those without means. Oh, and we might add at this juncture that we’re a not-for-profit organization. Which means we rely just as much on individual and foundation giving as we do on fees paid out of our participants’ wallets and pocketbooks.

Why are going to such lengths to point this out? Robert Balfanz, Ph.D., a research professor at the Center for the Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, said it best when he wrote:

Robert Balfanz's picture

Robert Balfanz, Ph.D.

“Poverty is a bear. Its impact on students is both obvious and subtle. The effects of food scarcity, housing instability, and insufficient access to medical and dental care are clear. Poverty also brings an increased exposure to violence, which further shapes student behavior directly and indirectly in complicated and often counter-productive ways. Another characteristic of poverty is living under constant stress, which research is beginning to show has a wide range of negative cognitive, physical, emotional, and mental health effects.”

The students who qualify for NCOAE scholarships often have not lived easy lives. A majority of these kids don’t have the luxury of living with both parents in the home. In many cases, if they’re living with even one biological parent, they’re considered the lucky ones. Some of the students who participate in our courses and programs live with a grandparent or an older sibling or are in the care of foster parents. (more…)

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Three-day Paddle Out to Masonboro Island is this Weekend

By Office Admin May 1, 2015

Education Without Walls

Some lucky eighth- and ninth-graders are heading out for a three-day expedition to the remote and undeveloped Masonboro Island near Myrtle Grove, N.C., this weekend, joined by a pair of instructors and a course director from here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education.

The eight youngsters are from the Wilmington, N.C., area and are participating in a custom program we’re running for New Hanover County schools called — appropriately — Education Without Walls.

This image is licensed under the Creative Commons — ©2010 Lucasmj.

This image is licensed under the Creative Commons — ©2010 Lucasmj.

Jena Honeyman and Wes Hawkins are the NCOAE lead instructors for this course, and she will be assisted by course director Joshua Youse.

After spending the night in cabins at NCOAE’s headquarters, the group heads out to Myrtle Grove where they’ll get a quick course in kayaking 101 and a safety briefing before paddling to Masonboro Island. There, the group will quickly set up camp, eat lunch and participate in its first Ed Group meeting, followed by free time.

And by free time, we mean (more…)

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An NCOAE Instructor Reflects on a Trek Among the People and Summits of Nepal

By Office Admin April 24, 2015

Custom Programs

Editor’s Note: Stephen Mullaney, NCOAE’s lead instructor, recently returned from our first-ever program abroad — an expedition to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Stephen led a group of South Korean high school teens on a six-day expedition through portions of this mystical and spiritual country. Below are his reflections on what he describes as a triumphant adventure trek.

It’s five in the morning and students participating in The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE) first-ever international expedition are all still asleep in their tents. I sit on the trail in the village of Pothana and look toward the horizon. A local villager named Chimay is blowing incense my direction — to bring me luck, he says.

Off in the distance, what first appears to my sleepy eyes to be clouds reveals itself for what it truly is: a vast stretch of snow fields and rock. Time to retrain my brain and the way I see the sky. My eyes follow the snowfields up, up through the clouds, to what seems like an absurd height, finally resting on the summit itself.


Machapuchare — “the Fish Tail” as it is interpreted in English — is a sacred mountain honoring Shiva (one of the main deities of Hinduism). The mountain is off limits to climbers and only one known attempt was ever made to summit its massive peak. Those climbers (three of them in 1957) stopped just five hundred feet from the summit, not because they couldn’t go on, but out of respect for the local culture and beliefs of the native people.

Viewing Machapuchare is how I kick off my first day on the trail for NCOAE in Nepal. A holy mountain that is pristine, respected and an earthen barrier that turns back explorers out of respect and sensitivity — not fear. Details about the mountain were provided to me by a local woman, a guide named Sita. She saw me drawing a picture of the mountain in my journal and volunteered to share its history with me.

We are in Nepal where I am teaching students to be (more…)

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The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education Goes to Nepal

By Office Admin April 13, 2015


Months of planning and organizing have brought success! We recently completed our first program abroad — an expedition to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal with a group of South Korean high school teens.


South Korea-based Apex Global Leadership Center (AGLC) joined with us for this adventure-based spring break program that emphasized leadership education. Traveling in the Annapurna region of Nepalthe adventure included our very own Stephen Mullaney as lead instructor, Matt Seats as course director and assistant instructor, and Matt Evans, an assistant instructor who joined as expedition videographer. Sean Hill, founder of Apex, also participated and instructed. This NCOAE custom program delivered beginner-level leadership and outdoor technical skills training with world-class views and cultural sharing.


The students and our instructors flew in from around the globe and met in Kathmandu, where they were driven to a teahouse just in time for dinner. After a night of shopping the Kathmandu markets for backpacking food and breakfast the next morning, the team went back to the airport and on to Pokhara four hours to the north and west. Following a late lunch at a lakeside guesthouse, the students (more…)

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High School Credit Now Available for All NCOAE Teen Adventures

By Office Admin March 22, 2015

Teen Courses

Blueprint-Education-LogoWe here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education are starting off the summer with some truly great news. Beginning in June, we’ll be offering students who successfully participate in any of our Teen Adventure courses the opportunity to earn high school credit.

This most excellent announcement is the result of the NCOAE curriculum having just now receiving the seal of approval from Blueprint Education — a private nonprofit accrediting body.

Founded in 1969, Blueprint is an accredited distance learning school for grades 7 through 12 with the primary mission of inspiring students to make better choices and to be champions of their own learning. Blueprint itself is accredited by AdvancED, the unified organization of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation & School Improvement (NCA CASI), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).

And as a result of this latest announcement, all NCOAE Teen Adventures are eligible for qualifying high school credit from Blueprint Education. Each and every one of these credits are elective and available in the following categories:

  • Physical Education: For having learned about and shown proficiency in mountaineering, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, alpine, or backpacking activities during an NCOAE Teen Adventure course
  • Outdoor Leadership: For having learned about and shown proficiency in interpersonal development, small group dynamics, critical thinking, decision making, and more during an NCOAE Teen Adventure course.
  • Environmental Studies: For having learned about and shown proficiency in water conservation, astronomy, environmental sustainability sustainability, Leave No Trace (LNT), cycle of rain clouds, oceanography and more during an NCOAE Teen Adventure course.

Students can earn .5 or 1.0 Carnegie Units (credit hours) for each topic depending on how many hours were put into teaching each one. Our staff has its pencils out, doing the math on how hours will be taught for each class and how that matches up with state and national standards. (more…)

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NCOAE Is Headed To Nepal

By Office Admin February 23, 2015

(Image courtesy of Apex Global Leadership Center)

(Image courtesy of Apex Global Leadership Center)

You know us as The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), but after today’s news, we may need to change “National” to “International”. That’s because we just booked our first overseas program — a March 2015 custom outdoor education expedition in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

Sure, we’re still offering courses like our Alaska Teen Adventure (for grades 10-12), California Youth Adventure (for grades 8-9), and the always popular North Carolina Teen Adventure (for grades 10-12), but thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the good folks at Apex Global Leadership Center, NCOAE will be facilitating a spring break leadership program for South Korean teenagers traveling in the Annapurna region of Nepal.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, Apex is a Seoul, South Korea-based outdoor and adventure leadership program, and when their founder, Sean Hill — a Wharton School of Business graduate living and working in South Korea — contacted us last summer about running a trip in Nepal, we jumped at the opportunity. After seven months of planning and working out a myriad of details, we’re happy to report that our team will be (more…)

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Everything You Need To Know About Choosing Women’s Outdoor Gear

By Office Admin February 1, 2015

Campfire Conversations

There was a time, not so long ago, that when it came out outdoor recreation gear, apparel and accessories, women were told one size fits all. “You there, young lady! I understand you need a backpack for a serious wilderness expedition? No problem. See that one over there that Jonathan is trying on? That’s the one for you!”

Suffice to say, the manufacturers of outdoor gear, apparel and accessories haven’t always greeted women interested in backcountry travel with open arms. Oh how times have changed, and for the better!

Celine Adair, co-founder and director of operations here at The National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education (NCOAE), will address the specific clothing and gear requirements for women who prefer their hikes to be more vertical in nature than horizontal and don’t think the term “roughing it” means room service is going to be late.

Celine, along with NCOAE instructor Jena Honeyman, will be speaking on the topic from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Great Outdoor Provisions Co. store in Wilmington, N.C. (The store is located at 3501 Oleander Drive — at the Hanover Center Shopping Mall — and the talk is free and open to the public.)

Outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturers didn’t truly recognize the potential for women’s wilderness equipment and accessories until about a decade ago. It’s not that they didn’t know there’s a difference between men and women. It was more the case of “one size fits all” when it comes to outdoor gear.

Wrong thinking, of course, but now that the (more…)

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Wilderness Medicine Training in North Carolina

By Office Admin January 20, 2015

Wilderness Medicine Training

img_0977Working in remote settings has its challenges. From the lack of a quality connection to the Internet and having to find alternate ways to ‘go to the bathroom,’ to not being able to find a doctor precisely when you may need one, working remotely takes on all new meaning when you’re outdoor educator or backcountry wilderness guide. And while there’s nothing we can do for you here at the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) about the Internet connectivity issue, we sure as heck can train and prepare you or your staff for medical emergencies that happen five or 500 miles away from the nearest hospital.

If you take a moment to really think about it, the practice of wilderness medicine has been around a lot longer than anyone really knows. We venture to say that its existence predates 1,800 BC, when the Code of Hammurabi first set out fees for surgeons and punishments for malpractice. Since the very first opportunity to provide lifesaving care in a remote setting, wilderness medicine has been a thing.

Of course, no one on the battlefields of Elam’s Invasion into Mesopotamia ever yelled for a ‘wilderness’ medic. Regardless, “the advancement of wilderness medicine has been closely connected to military exploration/operations throughout history, and not surprisingly, this remains in many ways as true today as it was a thousand years ago,” wrote George W. Rodway in a paper titled The Foundations of Wilderness Medicine: Some Historical Features.

Fast forward to 2015, and NCOAE — through its affiliation with the Wilderness Medicine Training Center — has emerged as a leading provider of wilderness medicine training in North Carolina (and as a custom training provider, anywhere in the world). More to the point, we’re the only provider to offer a Hybrid Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training and a Hybrid Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training, all under one roof. What’s this ‘hybrid’ thing we’re referring to? Good question. Read on, grasshopper.

For people interested in receiving training and certification in the administration of wilderness medicine but can’t get away from home or work for weeks at a time to participate in such trainings, hybrid training allows you to (more…)

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Environmentalist Extraordinaire Recalled in Magazine Eulogy

By Office Admin December 4, 2014

Outdoor Education News
(© John Blaustein Photography -

(©2004 John Blaustein Photography

For those of us who treasure the wilderness and want to preserve every pristine particle in it, the death late last month of Martin Litton was a bit jolting. Sure, he was 97 years old and certainly lived what eulogies often refer to as “a full life.”

And by that, we’re talking about a controversial outdoorsman who filled that life with stints as a LA Times reporter, WWII glider pilot, nature photographer, river runner, curmudgeonly conservationist and devout environmentalist.

By comparison, Martin Litton makes the equally grey-bearded “Most Interesting Man in the World” beer commercial character look like an Iowa accountant.

National Geographic contributor Kenneth Brower recently wrote a glowing description of Litton, an environmental pioneer who, as a sideline, founded his own dory fleet business, running rivers in boats of his own design. (Fun fact: Litton holds the record as the oldest man to row the Grand Canyon, which he did at the age of 87.)

Brower’s must-read piece for National Geographic waxes poetic on the accomplishments of this amazing man. Below are a few highlights:

  • It was Litton who first understood the damage that a Marble Canyon Dam would inflict on Grand Canyon National Park.
  • It was Litton who uncovered U.S. Forest Service mismanagement of the giant sequoias of California.


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Our 2014 Thanksgiving Holiday Schedule

By Office Admin November 27, 2014


NCOAE-Thanksgiving-2014-ImageWe here at the National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education are closing up shop today — Wednesday — and again on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, but we’ll be open from at least 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Then it’s back to regular office hours on Monday — just in time to celebrate the first day of December.

Like many outdoor education organizations are, we’re thankful for so much this year, including all of the wonderful students who have taken our courses, the great instructors we get to work with, and of course our amazing vendors and funders.

Most of all, we’re grateful for the dozens of absolutely beautiful places where we’ve guided and taught in the outdoors — all designated as Wilderness and all offering memories of great adventures.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Takeaways From The 2014 Wilderness Risk Management Conference

By Office Admin November 19, 2014


WRMC-2014-Action-StepsA rock fatally struck a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) student on the head 25 years ago, and the subsequent rescue efforts — in darkness and stormy weather — later resulted in an active collaboration between NOLS, Outward Bound and other outdoor education organizations to take a closer look at their risk management and safety practices.

The student, 24-year-old David Black, was fatally injured when another climber dislodged a rock above him, hitting Black in the head. Black was one of three students and a NOLS leader who were descending Mt. Warren in Wyoming’s Wind River Range on a midsummer afternoon in 1989.

In a review following the incident, leaders from both NOLS and Outward Bound agreed that there were contradictory practices in place between the two organizations — guidelines that were supposed to provide protocol before, during and after such incidents occur in wilderness. Buoyed by Black’s family — which challenged NOLS to do something about the lack of communication between industry players on the topic of risk management — NOLS organized the Wilderness Risk Managers Committee. In addition to NOLS, the group consisted of leaders from Outward Bound, the Wilderness Medicine Society, Exum Mountain Guides, the Association for Experiential Education, the National Park Service, National Safety Network, American Alpine Club and The Outdoor Network.

A year later, the committee had outlined a list of concerns that could have an adverse impact on each organization. Among those topics were suggestions to tone down the risk of some outdoor adventures in order to ensure safety. The concerns also targeted a need for consistency when it came to gathering data following an incident in the wild, and the problems associated with reliance on tech gadgets that can remove self-sufficiency from the experiential education equation.

The committee also agreed that it was to remain a collaborative communications group rather than a rule-making body, and it set about a plan to host a larger gathering of outdoor professionals the following fall. What followed in September of 1994 was a gathering of nearly 200 outdoor education leaders, guides and other stakeholders in Washington State for the first-ever Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC).

Much has been accomplished over the past two decades, with the fledgling forum developing into an international conference for outdoor education organizations of all scopes and sizes. These groups share the wilderness with others for the purpose of education, adventure, personal growth, leadership development and service learning. But specifically, the conference is a place for discussions about the risks that come with the rewards of a guided outdoor adventure.

And in each of the past 21 years, the WRMC has concentrated on risk management — including program administration, legal considerations, staff training and program practices. This annual risk-management revival has resulted in a better prepared and much more organized outdoor and experiential education industry.

This year’s Wilderness Risk Management Conference took place last month in Atlanta, Ga. For those of us who weren’t able to attend, the WRMC created a handy guide with key takeaways from each of the workshops presented over the three-day conference. Those takeaways appear below, and we encourage all of our industry peers to review what’s being recommended.

Presented below in alphabetical order, followed by the name of the workshop’s presenter(s) and the session’s key conclusions: (more…)

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Recapping The Wildwood School’s Custom NCOAE Program

By Office Admin November 3, 2014

Custom Programs

Nothing makes us happier here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) than meeting up with three busloads of seventh and eighth graders in a wilderness area and then teaching them about how to get along in an outdoor setting — in this case Joshua Tree National Park with its breathtaking sandstone rock formations monuments.

Last month, a group of our instructors from both the East and West Coasts participated in a three-day outing with 123 students from the famed Wildwood School in Los Angeles. These youngsters participated in what they and their teachers described afterwards as an incredible experience.

The Wildwood School and The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education in Joshua Tree National park (October 2014).

The Wildwood School and The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education in Joshua Tree National Park (October 2014).

Our co-founder and director of operations, Celine Adair, was there and said these “super smart Wildwood students,” joined 34 adults in setting up 52 tents in a base camp that became a theater of sorts, complete with two special sunsets, seven great meals, an orchestra performance by about a dozen coyotes each night, and topped off with a full-moon lunar eclipse with a few shooting stars tossed into the astronomical mix.

During the three-day outing, the Wildwood group participated in environmental studies, including learning the phases of the moon — very appropriate for the eclipse — local ecology and water use conservation.

They also broke up into smaller groups to learn about levels of communication, stages of relationships, and to discuss the best ways to identify and discuss feelings. Finally, they also learned outdoor skills, such as setting up a shelter, keeping warm, fire safety, hydration, hygiene and how to get found if lost.

Student journal from Wildwood School's October 2014 NCOAE Custom Course in Joshua Tree National Park.

Example of student journal during an NCOAE Custom Course.

Wildwood’s staff tells us they were (more…)

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The Early-Camper Gets the Worm, According to Wilderness Study

By Mikal October 26, 2014

Outdoor Education Research

It’s common knowledge that hanging around the outdoors, whether that be running bases on the baseball field or trekking in the backcountry — is nothing less than beneficial for you. There’s all that fresh air, exercise, a release from the stresses of everyday life — we could go on infinitum.

So now we have a new study that has scientists telling us there are additional pluses to participating in the wilderness-based activities, and these bennies can result in former sleepy heads who can’t seem to get up in the morning finding themselves leaping out of bed with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts.

According to a recent article in Current Biology, it appears that a large, consistent concentration of florescent lights in schools and the workplace, reading lamps at home, stadium floods and other artificial illumination sources, can really screw up your sleep pattern. And that doesn’t even account for the screen glow from computers, tablets and smartphones.

The study — albeit a small one — claims that an overabundance of artificial light at the wrong time can change sleep patterns and make us grumpy and sluggish in the mornings.

But a week in the wild, these scientists assert, synchronizes the body’s clock to become more attuned to the Sun and natural light sources, such as a candle or a campfire. In fact, sleep researchers maintain that by taking away artificial light, former night owls and other party animals who have a rough time hitting the deck in the morning, find themselves up and at ’em bright and early with more energy than ever before.

Kenneth P. Wright Jr., Ph.D., of the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, says the brain’s “clock” lets us know when it’s time to hit the rack. However, unlike an alarm clock, this so-called circadian clock can be affected by artificial light sources, keeping you awake later at night and making it more difficult to get up in the morning.

Wright says that (more…)

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Historic Outdoor Education Center Camp Waskowitz Gets a Major Facelift

By Office Admin October 17, 2014

Outdoor Education News

camp-waskowitzEarlier this month, 325 volunteers descended on Camp Waskowitz, a historic outdoor education center and former Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp located south of Seattle, Wash.

These volunteers — organized by NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association — didn’t come empty handed. They carried ladders and saws and hammers and nails and paint buckets and brushes.

And in a matter of 10 hours, they completed 20 major projects at this 67-year-old complex — a task that would have taken the camp staff more than five years to accomplish on their own.

Roberta McFarland, the director of Camp Waskowitz, said she felt like the camp had won the lottery. She said the real estate association contacted her nine month ago and asked for a wish list of things that needed to be done. And she complied.

How’s this for a to-do list:

  • Stain the cabins, council hall and lookout tower
  • Relocate a large deck to the other side of the council hall
  • Refurbish numerous benches and picnic tables
  • Repair trails and install trail gates
  • Install an ADA ramp to the nurse and staff building
  • Construct a 150-square-foot greenhouse to grow tree seedlings
  • Remove extensive, non-native, invasive plants
  • Place 200 tons of crushed rock on walkways and parking lots

Built in 1935 as a temporary facility for the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corp, the original buildings at Camp Waskowitz are still heavily used today. It is a state and national historic preservation site and one of only two (more…)

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Mark Udall on Outdoor Education and Politics

By Office Admin October 10, 2014

Outdoor Education News

Mark-Udall-Outdoor-EducationTo those of us who have worked in the outdoor education field for 20 years or more — or who know the history of our practice and its people — the name Mark Udall rings a familiar sounding bell. Most people nowadays know Mark Udall as the senior U.S. Senator from Colorado whose family’s role in politics, especially in the western part of the United States, spans over 100 years.

But upon closer inspection, it’s not very difficult to tell that Udall is one of us, or said different, that that he used to be one of us and not in some slightly insignificant way. That’s because right there on his Wikipedia entry, Mark Udall lists Outward Bound instructor as his primary job title. We don’t know about you but we think that’s pretty cool and refreshing to see, especially when almost 50% of the members of Congress list “lawyer” as their occupation.

Why point this out? Because Rock & Ice magazine recently ran a profile of Udall in which the 6-foot 5-inch uber legislator calls our attention to the significant role outdoor education can play in our lives. You see, Udall used to run the Colorado Outward Bound School — as in, he was its executive director during one of the organization’s largest growth spurts — and now he’s one of the most powerful and influential people in the United States.

Have a look at what Mark Udall has to say about what he’s learned along the way, and how his career in outdoor education has helped make him the person he is today: (more…)

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NCOAE Now Offers Custom Programs

By Office Admin September 30, 2014

Custom Programs

NCOAE_logo_development6We’re not sure who said it first but the person who coined the phrase ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ really was onto something. Whether it’s in education, hats, management, or financial services, one size doesn’t fit all, and the same goes for your employee training and teambuilding.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce the launch of Custom Programs here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education. That’s right… in addition to open enrollment teen and adult backcountry courses — and training in emergency medicine, wilderness medicine, and Leave No Trace (LNT) — NCOAE now offers custom programs to meet any of your organization’s highly specific needs.

  • Want to train your entire team in the fundamentals of wilderness medicine? No problem. We’ll even run the program at your location!
  • Interested in taking your executives out for a custom three-day backcountry teambuilding experience? We’ve got you covered.
  • What’s that you say… you have a group of teenage girls who deserve a trip of their own? No problem… start with any of our teen adventure itineraries and tell us what you’d like keep or change, and that’s the course we’ll run for you.

See where we’re going with this?

The advantage of custom programs include (more…)

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New Research Focuses on The Impact of Face Time Versus Screen Time

By Office Admin September 19, 2014

Outdoor Education News

According to research we’ve recently discovered, children ages 8–18 now spend seven-and-a-half hours a day, seven days a week, using screens outside of the classroom. Those ages 12–17 use their phones to text message on a daily basis more than any other form of communication, including face-to-face interactions with peers, parents and others in their community.

And the trend is only growing. In the last two years alone, teen use of screens (think smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) has increased five-fold. For an organization like The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education, these findings present both challenges and opportunities.

When grade schoolers and teens enroll in our adventure-based, outdoor education-focused backcountry courses, we inform them ahead of time that tablets and phones are not approved for use during backcountry travel. On the opportunity side of that equation, we find the same outcomes that researchers from UCLA recently did when they conducted an experiment that examined whether increasing opportunities for face-to-face interaction during an outdoor education program — while eliminating the use of screen-based media and communication tools — improved nonverbal emotion–cue recognition in preteens.

From a write up in The Wall Street Journal:

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, wondered if all screen time might be affecting children’s ability to read emotions in others. To find out, they took advantage of a rustic science-education program, 70 miles east of L.A., which doesn’t permit students to use electronic devices. (more…)

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Staff Profile: NCOAE Co-Founder and Director of Operations Celine Adair

By Office Admin September 12, 2014

Staff Profiles

ncoae-team_celine-adairEditor’s Note: In our continuing effort to introduce the staff at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we decided we’d go straight to the top of the ladder and quiz Celine Adair, our co-founder and director of operations.

Celine is in charge of a lot of things here at NCOAE, including grant writing, staff development, policy development, curriculum development, office management, student and parent liaison, and some billing and bookkeeping in her free time. Originally from a small town about an hour north of New York City, Celine majored in wilderness therapy and marriage and family therapy, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1999 from Prescott College (Ariz.) and a Masters degree in marriage and family therapy in 2005 from Argosy University.

Celine is married to Zac Adair, NCOAE’s executive director and the second “Co” in the co-founder set. Here’s Celine in her own words:

NCOAE: So how did a girl from Brewster, N.Y., end up in a college in Prescott, Ariz.?

Celine: It was big wonderful chain of events that lead me to Arizona. I was awarded a soccer scholarship for a Division III school in Virginia. When I arrived, I immediately knew I was in the wrong town and at the wrong school. To make things worse, I injured my ankle in the preseason and was unable to play a lick of the game that got me there.

I was young and I didn’t have the courage or insight to do anything about my unhappiness, so I quickly turned into an unmotivated freshman. That spring I crossed paths with a director for a summer camp in North Carolina who offered me a job because she saw that I worked well with kids. 

The director asked what are my special interests were and I referenced the environmental group ‘Unless’ that my best friend and I started in high school. The director put me on the backpacking and rock climbing staff, thinking it would be a good fit. By the end of that summer, I had slept out under the stars more nights then I was inside under a roof — and I thought that was the greatest concept ever! Before that summer I had never even seen a backpack, a camp stove or a topo map.

However, my first attempt of living this new dream was a failed mission. I applied for a job in Utah to lead three-week-long backcountry courses. They turned me down, big time. I still remember the phone interview — which was really more like HR lecturing me that I was too young and inexperienced.

I didn’t want to return to school, in the wake of my freshman year failure where I achieved horrible grades and had a throng of not-so-great people hanging out in my dorm room.

I came across Prescott Colleges’ 1996 course catalogue and I thought, “This is were I need to be.” So I made it happen. I came up with a plan and I implemented it. I pick up my grads, became a certified EMT, trained and worked on the Gauely and New River and applied to transfer to Prescott my junior year.

NCOAE: Tell us about a time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful.

Celine: That same summer I was hired at the camp, I climbed “The Daddy,” which is a classic climb in Linville Gorge, N.C. It’s an easy climb, but long and exposed. The last pitch is a summit pitch and when you top out, you are on this beautiful mountaintop in an amphitheater of rock. I had a feeling of being limitless.

And then, of course, there was the adventure of giving birth to my son, Sawyer.

NCOAE: On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?

Celine: Not at all. I mean, I guess a little. It really depends on the day and if I’ve had my exercise. Things can get weird when I don’t. (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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Have any further questions about our courses, what you’ll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we’re here to help!