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Anna Seifert (left) and Rachel Wadleigh check their backpacks during a spring break outdoor education trip to the Pisgah National Forest.

Outdoor Ed Group Spring Breaks in NC Mountains

March 18, 2013

Spring break conjures thoughts of tanning on warm beaches, sleeping in or catching up on homework for many college students, but not so for a group of 11 students, four student leaders and two instructors who are headed to Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, for a weeklong Outdoor Trip Leadership course.

“We will hike more than 30 miles through the beautiful Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness areas while learning about judgment and decision making, outdoor living, planning and logistics of field courses, risk management, leadership, environmental integration and outdoor education,” says Alexia Springer, Field Programs Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Action. “Outdoor Trip Leadership is a unique, hands-on training course for students interested in leading courses for the Earlham College Outdoor Education program.”

The Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is made up of more than 500,000 acres of mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls, and heavily forested slopes. Hundreds of miles of trails cut through the hardwood forest and whitewater rivers.

While the course includes a brief history of outdoor and experiential education and significant time for reflection, much of the course will be spent learning by doing.

“We will be teaching some hard skills like advanced river crossing, and we have some soft skills like group management, conflict resolution and communications,” says Abby Rockefeller ’13, who is a teaching assistant.

Jay Roberts, associate professor of education, and Zoe Wolfe, a second-year teaching assistant, adjust a backpack for a spring break outdoor education trip to North Carolina.The course is designed for students interested in outdoor and experiential education, students interested in facilitating groups and teams, as well as students interested in teaching outdoor education.

Rockefeller, who has completed wilderness courses in West Virginia, Arkansas, New Zealand and Utah while at Earlham, hopes to combine her psychology major with her minor in outdoor education to work as a wilderness therapist.

“Being out in the natural environment forces young people to take initiative,” she says. “When your whole life is in a backpack, you see things a little differently. Living and working together with a group of people 24/7 you learn from the area you are in and you learn from the people you are with. Being in an outdoor setting, you learn and connect with one another on a deeper level.”

Zoe Wolfe ’15, a neuroscience major who is also serving as a teaching assistant for the course, will use the training to prepare for the August Wilderness course she will lead this summer.

Since 1971, Earlham’s August Wilderness has been a pre-orientation experience for first-year students who can choose from two programs Water Wilderness in Western Ontario’s Caribou Forest or Mountain Wilderness in Utah’s rugged Uinta mountains.

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