Instructor Candidate Course

At NCOAE, Partnerships Keep Us Outside and Global

By NCOAE Headquarters December 9, 2021


One tree doesn’t offer the strength of a forest, just as one organization can’t lead an entire industry.

According to others, we here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) have distinguished ourselves as outdoor and adventure education industry leaders. But without collaborations, our ability to be creators and innovators would be difficult — if not impossible to achieve.

Since 2009, we have sought out ways to collaborate, learn, and lead with others. As a result, partnerships have taken us around the globe and helped us grow, and we happily play it forward, or backward or sideways to help our partners and others do the same.

As the calendar runs out in 2021 and we look ahead toward 2022, we see our biggest year yet on the horizon. On the agenda are courses, trainings, expeditions, and custom outdoor education programs that vary in length from three days to three months — all of which focus on technical outdoor and personal development skills. These include mountaineering, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, backpacking, surfing, sea kayaking, remote backcountry travel and camping, and of course… team building.

So, how exactly do partnership and collaborations with like-minded organizations help us grow? As we began working with public, private, and independent schools over 10 years ago, the word spread about our programming, curriculum, depth of instruction, and track record of facilitating programs that shifted students’ lives, school cultures, and even started to redefine communities.

For example, our collaboration with (more…)

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Shoulder Season Doesn’t Mean You’re Doomed to Binge-watching Netflix

By NCOAE Headquarters October 17, 2019

Custom Programs

The outdoor industry uses the term “shoulder season” to indicate times of the year when we’re less busy. With the exception of the snow sport sector of the industry, for many companies and outdoor outfits, that time starts in October and can stretch all the way to May or early June. 

The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) has diligently devised, implemented, and executed programs over the years in order to reduce the economic effects of the shoulder season. For us, this means employing many of our staff members year-round. That means our participants have the opportunity to experience adventure-based recreation and personal growth & development programs throughout the year. That’s because we offer opportunities that fit our client’s “shoulder season” schedules. And by expanding our season, we can travel to more diverse locations around the U.S. and abroad.

Instructor Course

If you work in the outdoor industry and want to expand your knowledge and depth of instruction, we offer our Instructor Course in many locations. These courses alternate between  (more…)

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NCOAE Instructs the Instructors Through Instructor Candidate Training Program

By Stephen Mullaney January 13, 2017

Working at NCOAE

Without going completely overboard, we here at The National Center for Outdoor Education & Adventure Education (NCOAE) liken our popular Instructor Candidate (IC) training to a Hollywood red carpet event — without the egos or trophies.

That’s because this training attracts the best wilderness educators in the world to our North Carolina headquarters for five days of curriculum design and delivery training. It’s a time when NCOAE’s instructors get to work directly with some of the most highly qualified outdoor educators in the industry.


This “invitation only” event draws participants who have worked for other companies and schools on both the domestic and international levels. By the time they arrive on our campus for IC training, they are often looking for something different — something more meaningful.

As NCOAE instructors, we think of this educational training and refresher as a time of (more…)

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From Belly to Brain, Cognitive Shifts in the Backcountry

By Office Admin August 15, 2016

Wilderness Cooking

During our latest Instructor Candidate (IC) course, I had the opportunity to witness one of the most beautiful shifts in group dynamics I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Our instructor candidates had just finished two days of challenging climbs — made all the more difficult by torrential rains, equipment challenges and late — very, very late — dinners. Empty bellies, low energy levels and mercurial weather makes for some pretty unhappy people.

Backcountry Dough

On the third day we set off on even steeper climbs and larger elevation gains. By lunchtime, the entire group was getting the “hangries.” After the noontime meal, one of the instructor candidates (Jessica) said we needed to get a head start on dinner. Now.

And before we know it, she began leading us all through a dough-making lesson. As we began kneading the dough, everyone began chatting about a range of topics, with a little laughter and horseplay thrown in. What we were not talking about was smelly wet clothes, tired legs and aching bodies.

As we set off for our second half of the day, each of us had a ziplocked bag of rising dough tucked into our shirts, giving us the appearance of a large group of big-bellied backcountry enthusiasts.

By the time we found a suitable campsite, we were exhausted, the water was further away than we thought and a lot of work faced us before we could eat. You could slice the tension in the air with a pizza cutter — which was ironic because (more…)

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Adventures in Outdoor Cooking: Do it for Your Taste Buds

By Stephen Mullaney January 26, 2022

Wilderness Cooking

The instructor-in-training for the day reaches into her pack, shakes her head and swears softly.

“We left a bottle of fuel at basecamp. Who do we call for resupply?”

Liz, NCOAE’s course director walks over to the instructor and looks into the canvas bag. Then she shrugs her shoulders and says, “There’s no one to call. Looks like we’ve only got fuel for three out of eight nights.”

Scanning the forest, Liz points to a pile of rocks on the ground where previous groups have built fires and says, “Collect wood, build a fire, cook dinner.”

A few days earlier, this same group was packing for an Instructor Training Course. Participants are educators who have been in the outdoor education and adventure industry for a few years and have a firm grasp on technical skills. We use the course to familiarize these future instructors with our curriculum, educational practices and other components that are unique to NCOAE.

So, when an Instructor Course group forgets to pack an important piece of gear — in this case fuel — we like to see how problem solving, creativity and ingenuity unfold to keep an expedition moving forward.

Now, with a fire started and a meal selected for the evening, it’s time to start cooking. These NCOAE instructors in training begin by building a potholder out of rocks, stirring up the coals, and blending ingredients together for the meal.

There’s little confusion, no drama, and the meal comes together because these educators have been practicing outdoor skills at home in their backyards as well as in outdoor settings like the one mentioned here.

Practice makes perfect

The way these participants upped their backcountry skills and calmly slapped together a great evening meal was to practice their “seeking game.”

It was back in the late 1990s when a neurologist named Jaak Panksepp coined the term “seeking system” in regard to (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!