Gannett Peak third graders recycle with NOLS
“What happens to all the trash in the landfills?” a Gannet Peak Elementary School third grader asked me. Her classmate helped her out and shouted, “It gets INCINERATED!!” A group of eight- and nine-year olds shrieked and giggled with excitement in the Sinks Canyon State Park Visitors Center. They were out for the day on their monthly visit to the park, where they listen to ecology lessons from park rangers, explore hiking trails on foot or snowshoe, and have special guests from local organizations come visit. I was the lucky visitor this time, ready to teach these kids all about recycling and what it means to be a good steward.
But first, it was lunchtime. Amongst the PB&J-smeared smiles, I suggested that before they throw anything away, they put potential recyclables in a bag off to the side. This exercise got their brains churning and the questions flowing. We gathered in a circle and I held up each piece of lunchtime packaging and asked whether or not it could be recycled. We searched for numbers 1-7 on the plastics, noted whether or not the cardboard qualified, and considered why there were recycling symbols on some things and not on others.
We sorted the items into proper boxes through a frenzied game of recycling basketball. Then after some good hugs and laughs, they were on their merry way for an afternoon hike.
- Plastics #s 1-7
- Mixed paper, pressboard, white office paper
- Egg cartons, toilet paper rolls
- Aluminum cans
- Corrugated cardboard
- Aluminum foil, tin/steel cans
- Glass bottles
Radio Stars: NOLS Southwest Course
Odessa, Texas NPR affiliate KXWT interviewed NOLS Southwest instructors and students before they hit the river Monday morning. The instructors shared their passion and believe in a NOLS education with Marfa Public Radio, and the students rattled of the many reasons they were there and goals they have for their Spring Semester in the Southwest.
Listen to the interview here.
The NOLS Marketing Internship: Playing Outdoors Is Part of the Job!
(NOLS Intern, Rahel Manna, learning how to sail from NOLS Instructor, Rachel Silverstein, in Baja California Sur, Mexico.)
Aristotle was once quoted as saying, "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work". I couldn't agree more. Everyday I have been enthusiastically working hard for the National Outdoor Leadership School for that exact reason.
Hi! My name is Rahel and I am the new PR & Marketing Intern at NOLS Headquarters. When I initially walked into the NOLS Headquarters building I was sweaty-palm nervous. Every corner of every floor of “Headquarters” bloomed with cool office space that directly reflected the creative energy of the NOLS culture I’d heard so much about.
I knew that NOLS Headquarters was going to be an amazing Energy Star certified building, having previously read about the rooftop garden and attention to detail with the architectural process, but nothing prepared me for the endless amounts of sweet outdoor recreation paraphernalia that I found inside, or the Tibetan prayer flags, or the huge amount of plants and the smiling faces everywhere. One day I even stumbled upon a newly erected teepee on the second floor, “that bad boy is to be used for power naps” as one of my coworkers hilariously put it. Yeah, Headquarters is fun.
As my supervisor Jeanne O’Brien gave me a welcoming tour to introduce me to everyone, I quickly realized that I was one lucky son of a gun. The idea of being the “new kid” in any professional work environment is usually daunting and nerve racking, especially if that professional work environment is full of accomplished and devoted individuals working for one of the top nonprofits in the nation. Thankfully, it didn’t take long before I realized everyone I would be working with was humble and helpful and friendly above all.
Needless to say, I was beyond ecstatic when I learned that my NOLS internship would entail much more than sitting in front of a computer typing my heart out. While working at NOLS I quickly learned that I have “in-office” work and I have “out-of-office” work, two totally different things.
Ill start with some of the rad “out-of-office” work I’ve been able to experience with NOLS since starting my internship two months ago. From the time I was told that I was chosen as the new Marketing & PR intern, I was encouraged by O’Brien to take a NOLS course for a more comprehensive understanding of the NOLS culture and mission. After going through the NOLS course enrollment process, I hopped on a plane and headed out to NOLS Mexico to start my new NOLS course: Baja Coastal Sailing. Rough, I know.
(Our NOLS Drascombe Sailboats anchored in the Sea of Cortes)
I spent the first month of my internship on this NOLS course being trained in sail theory and application, leadership development, and environmental studies by four incredible NOLS instructors. As part of a group of 11 students, I sailed 90 miles down the Sea of Cortes in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I experienced the most liberating and educational three weeks of my life on those sailboats and secluded beaches, and it has helped me in my position as an intern immensely. Nature demands responsibility. Most internship supervisors are not concerned with encouraging their trainees to go on an amazing educational backcountry adventure for three weeks to better train themselves, but most internship supervisors aren’t as personable and intelligent as O’Brien.
Two days after my course ended in sunny and tropical Mexico, I was really stoked to walk through the front doors of NOLS Headquarters and start the second month of my internship in sunny and snowy Lander. Within the first week of working in the office, I was given an exciting “out-of-office” assignment to report on the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race that runs annually through beautiful South Pass in the Wind River Range. I acted as a photographer at the event and interviewed some of the mushers, but more importantly I spent the first half of my work shift outdoors under the beautiful Wyoming sun learning about dog sledding and having a blast in the snow.
Another fun “out-of-office” opportunity involved me shadowing NOLS instructors at NOLS Rocky Mountain and learning first-hand about the instructors’ role in gear issuing and food rationing with newly arrived students pre-course—valuable knowledge for any person interested in becoming an instructor one day. NOLS students facing a semester course ask a lot of really great questions, so it was awesome to witness knowledgeable instructors answer all of their questions and help students figure out how to get their gear on and off properly. We also focused on other important pre-course preparation activities like helping students learn to weigh and bag their expedition rations for the first week of their course. Being able to shadow and train under NOLS instructors while they are with their students was super valuable in helping me develop my knowledge base as an aspiring NOLS instructor.
My in-office work is equally as awesome because I am learning tons of professional knowledge about marketing and PR, and I work with ridiculously thoughtful and fun staff. Since arriving I have learned how to professionally write and send out press releases thanks to the training I received from coworkers like Mike Casella and Casey Adams. I’ve also been able to publish fun blog pieces on the NOLS Blog, the most recent of which covers a former NOLS instructor turned Olympian. Throughout my internship I’ve been able to sit in on important conference calls during regular team meetings where we work on new projects and build on innovative team ideas from the ground up. It is thrilling to be able to be part of a winning team like the NOLS Marketing department and learn the ropes first-hand. The marketing skills I am gaining are invaluable, and my in-office training is exactly the type of professional knowledge I was hoping to attain during my internship.
In two weeks, the other interns and I are looking forward to a day full skiing provided by NOLS at White Pine Ski resort as part of a “Wellness Day” that all NOLS staff partake in. A few short weeks after that we will have a second “Wellness Day,” offering free transportation to a discounted day at the world's largest mineral hot springs located in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Not too shabby aye?
My NOLS internship never feels like a desk job, mostly because my supervisor has always encouraged me to go out and partake in outdoor recreation on my lunch breaks and weekends, or even take the day off if the weather is especially nice and workload isn’t high. As I am typing this very blog I have been informed that NOLS Headquarters will shut down an hour early today so we can all “get out the skis and snowboards and have a fun weekend playing in the snow!” Yeah. My job really sucks. Gotta’ go play in the snow now! See ya!
Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Mar 4, 2014
Get to Know NOLS Scandinavia
We got a quick Q&A session in with NOLS Scandinavia Manager Carrie Dodge regarding her work with students in NOLS Scandinavia.
If you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:
The staff at NOLS Scandinavia are dedicated, hard working, and passionate about the programs we run, aiming to provide the best possible experiences for the students. We have a great mix of local staff, with amazing knowledge of the area and culture, and international staff representing up to five continents, bringing their unique experiences and perspectives to the courses.
How long have you been NOLS Scandinavia director?
I have been managing the program in Scandinavia for just over a year and look forward to many more to come. Scandinavia is a place I have wanted to live and work for a long time, so I am thrilled that I get to spend so much time there now!
What is your background with NOLS? Or how did it all begin for you?
I first came to NOLS as a student in 1999 on a semester in the Pacific Northwest. I knew I wanted to work in the outdoor field and went to college to earn a degree in outdoor experiential education. After working for some other programs to gain experience, I found my way back to NOLS with an internship in 2007 at Headquarters in Lander. I knew immediately that I wanted to stay with NOLS longer, so I applied for my instructor course and began looking for more full time work within the school. Since then I have held various positions working in town while also teaching hiking and sea kayaking courses for part of every year. It's the perfect balance of getting to spend time with students in the field and exploring new places and also supporting the courses and developing the programs at the branch as well.
What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?
The Northern Scandinavian landscape is quite stunning. We have mountains, rivers, and lakes to explore all right there next to the base in Sweden, and just a short distance away are the dramatic fjords of Norway, which are enjoyed on courses by hikers and kayakers alike … even the van drivers on the way to drop off or pick up a course. I never get tired of that view with the high peaks plunging right into the ocean. It’s breathtaking!
What unique or particularly appealing aspect of this location do you think potential students should know about?
NOLS Scandinavia, which now boasts a large tipi as the main staging area for all courses, is located in the far north of Sweden right on the border with Norway. So, our course areas span the two countries with kayak routes exploring the fjords and hiking routes starting right out the back door. Students can throw their packs right on, start walking across the mountains into Norway, and keep heading west until they hit the ocean, where a boat will be waiting to bring them back to the branch—or they’ll get dropped off on the coast and hike all the way back to the base in Sweden, where a warm cup of coffee (a Swedish staple) and hot sauna will be waiting for them.
Along the way, students get to experience the remoteness of the mountains and also the unique opportunity to learn about the culture through stories and language lessons from local instructors, visits to museums and historical sights, and spending some time with the indigenous Sami people, learning some of their traditions and how they lived with the land.
What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?
I’m not sure everyone initially realizes that the NOLS Scandinavia base is located North of the Arctic Circle—the land of the midnight sun. This means that there are 30 days in the summer when the sun doesn’t go below the horizon, and we have 24 hours of daylight nearly the entire summer. Some courses enjoy the novelty of traveling in the night, arriving to camp in the wee hours of the morning, and then enjoying a nice sleep in before continuing on with the day.
Anything else you'd like to add about your part of the world?
Visiting NOLS Scandinavia is a great and easy way to link an educational journey with some additional international exploration. The base is located right on the train tracks, so connecting travel from other European countries is simple. Sweden is part of the Schengen area, so depending on your home country and length of stay, many students won’t even need to obtain a visa before coming. Some students make plans to meet up with friends or family for a personal trip while they are in Europe, and others have continued their education by connecting their NOLS course with a study abroad program.
NOLS Pacific Northwest Soaks Up the Sun
Newly installed solar panels went live this December at NOLS Pacific Northwest. NOLS PNW is one of nine NOLS locations to use this form of alternative energy. The school teamed up with Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), The North Face, and Whidbey Sun & Wind to install the 9.54 kW solar array that will provide 20 percent of the campus’ electricity needs.
For the past five years, the NOLS strategic plan, Expedition 2013, guided the way for the school’s growth. This plan set goals for NOLS locations to focus on areas such as risk management, access to wilderness classrooms, and environmental stewardship. In pursuit of the environmental stewardship goal, NOLS PNW installed solar panels to decrease their carbon footprint and improve their student and community sustainability education.
“This array not only saves our school significant financial resources, but it also is the right thing to do.” Chris Agnew, NOLS PNW Director, commented enthusiastically.
Chris, the students, and faculty are excited to have a brand new array of 39 solar panels perched on their school’s roof. The new panels are estimated to produce 9,700 kWh annually, which will put a dent in both electricity costs and CO2 emissions. In fact, this past Tuesday, February 25, marked the largest solar energy production day in the history of the NOLS PNW solar panels! Who said Washington can’t get a sunny day in the middle of February?
Permalink | Posted by Caitlin Camilliere on Feb 28, 2014
NOLS Amazon Students Reflections, Part 1
As Brazil crazily prepares for Carnival starting this Saturday and continues to anticipate further excitment for the World Cup this boreal summer, we are enjoying our last few months of the off-season. Off-season at NOLS Amazon is filled with delicious peaceful mornings and downpours of rain that are so heavy it is hard to hear yourself think. The boreal spring is on the cusp and summer is soon to follow, which means things start kicking in gear. With the excitment of another year with more students, more adventures, and more time in the Amazon we admittedly start to get all giddy inside! So, until we meet our 2014 NOLS Amazon River Expedition and Semester students, here is the Part 1 of a student-written series about how NOLS Amazon has shaped who they have become.
The first short piece is written by a 2011 NOLS Amazon Semester graduate, Kelsey Kuhn.
At a young age my heart was captured by the mysterious allure and biodiversity that the Amazon Rainforest embodies. So, when I discovered NOLS offered a semester course in the Amazon I enrolled eagerly. My experience has had such a great impacted my life and gave me the skills and experience to create the path I have always wanted to walk.
This course challenged me physically, emotionally and socially in ways I never expected, and in ways no other place on Earth could have done. The skills I gained in that course set me up for achievement in the outdoor world for life. The month I spent canoeing on the Juruena River taught me skills to excel reading and navigating on the whitewater and flat water. Bushwhacking though the tangles of vines and thickets of the jungle gave me patience and understanding of low impact route fining and the importance of leave no trace.
Hiking in the Serra Ricardo Franco was my playground to become an expert in cross-country hiking. I was able to cultivate my outdoor skills so I could thrive, not just survive in the Amazon. Living in the jungle with people from all different pasts, presents, and futures was one of the toughest experiences, but also one of the most rewarding. The tools I gained from navigating the tricky group dynamics have made resolving conflicts in “real” life much easier. It was also the perfect stage for me to exercise my leadership skills. NOLS has helped me become a truly effective leader rooted in understanding, communication, and safety. The time I spent in Brazil also took my relationship with nature to a new level. The power of a river and true wilderness of the jungle created a deeper respect for our planet in my being.
I have always wanted to peruse outdoor related jobs and have done exactly that since I graduated from NOLS Amazon. I was an intern on United States' only Organic Biodynamic Tea farm where I learned to heal and cultivate the Earth. I spent last April-September on a backcountry trail crew, living and working in Kings Canyon National Park. The experience and skills I gained from NOLS made me a prime candidate to be hired by the California Conservation Corps backcountry trails program. This summer I will be a Sea Kayak guide in Alaska, utilizing my leadership and outdoor skills to share the wonders of Earth with the general public. I can’t wait to teach people about the fragile beauty of our planet, and inspire a sense of pride and responsibility to take care of it in their souls.
Whenever I look back on every thing I have accomplished in the past few years, and all that I have ahead of me I feel I owe a thank you to my NOLS Amazon course. If I had never gone to the Amazon and not learned and experienced what I did, I would not be the same person I am today, and definitely not living this life I am living at age 22.
New Zealand Semester one came through the NOLS NZ base and are now Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds.
They started their canoe expedition in the high country near Molesworth Station. They paddled all the way to the Pacific Ocean just North of Kaikoura.
While on the Clarence River the group encounted low water levels and hot clear days.
The group stayed near Muzzel Station where they helped the Nimmo's clear brush from a paddock, watched sheep dogs in action, learned about and tasted organic honey produced on the station.
The Group is now Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds which is located at North end of the South Island. The Marlborough Sounds are an extensive area of sea drowned valleys that makes an interesting coastline to explore. The Sounds make up approximatelly one fifth of the New Zealand coastline.
They started their Sea Kayak expedition in Picton and are attempting to paddle to Waimaru. So far they have had perfect calm conditions and the weather forecast is looking promising for the next week.
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(Student Name and Course Code)
4 Serpentine River Road
Aniseed Valley RD 1
Leadership in the Wilderness: The First Darden/NOLS Course
By Alex Fife
As the last light faded and I clicked on my headlamp, two things had become clear: 1) it is very dark in the wilderness, and 2) this was not going to be a simple walk in the woods. Though night had fallen, we still had to cover a considerable distance before reaching and setting up camp. I thought back on the day: we had hiked at least six miles, first across an expanse of cactus and thorns and then through a rocky canyon with gnarled Arizona sycamore trees. When not hiking, our time had been filled with instruction on fundamental outdoor skills such as how to cook with a camp stove, read a topographic map, and the multistep process for going to the bathroom in the woods. It was the beginning of a class unlike any other offered at Darden.
This January marked the first Darden collaboration with the National Outdoor Leadership School, NOLS for short. In addition to running custom programs for companies like Google and Salesforce.com, NOLS Professional Training has offered courses for a number of MBA programs. Jake Freed, Assistant Director of NOLS Pro and one our instructors, believes that “the wilderness actually draws many parallels with the landscape business school graduates will face. It is an ambiguous, dynamic setting where decisions with real consequences must be made, often with incomplete information.” Dr. Freed notes that the course structure encourages participants to “practice leadership skills in a challenging, unfamiliar environment where it is OK to fail and where both success and failure ultimately lead to profound learning.”
When asked about Darden’s decision to collaborate with NOLS, Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne responded that “The Darden/NOLS field elective was about experiencing leadership. The idea was to empower our students by allowing each and every participant to discover their capabilities as leaders, while operating in a unique and challenging setting. When the decisions you make as a leader can result in your team hiking in the dark, getting lost, or not having enough water, outcomes are direct and consequences clear. Leaders and team members alike are called to think and care for each other in new ways and to rely on trust, extraordinary teamwork, non-selfish behavior and mutual respect.”Our course took place in the Galiuro Mountains in Arizona. Never heard of the Galiuro Mountains? Neither had we, but being in the desert in January sounded reasonably warm and the course description spoke of an area “renowned for its rugged terrain, spectacular Sonoran ecology and beautiful vistas.” It is also a treacherous place where, in the words of second year student Amanda Miller, “EVERYTHING will bite, prick, or sting you.” So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that 13 second year students, Yael, one alum, and three NOLS instructors ventured into the wilderness.
The objective for the week was clear: to hike south through the mountain range, a distance of roughly 40 miles through canyons and high mountain passes. While our NOLS instructors would serve as advisors, Darden students were responsible for almost every aspect of the expedition. Every day, three students would act as expedition leaders, each responsible for leading a small team from dawn until dusk. These leaders would plot the course for the day, draw up contingency plans, and make dozens of critical decisions along the way. NOLS instructors would give their advice when asked, but would not intervene if a leader made a mistake.
“We had to make real managerial decisions in the middle of nowhere,” said Amanda Miller, “We had to manage our peers in uncharted territory. We had to use a compass and a topographical map to figure out how to get down mountain faces by the light of a headlamp with no trail in sight. We all learned about our leadership styles and how they can evolve when you move between carefully planned scenarios and chaotic uncertainty.”
“We were able to exercise both our leadership and active follower skills while receiving concrete feedback from our Darden peers and NOLS instructors,” noted Kat Baronowski, a second year student and DSA President, “It was a great opportunity to put into practice a number of the lessons we’ve learned in the Darden classroom.”
Mark Silvers, a second year student and Marine Corps veteran, agreed that the experience was a dramatic departure from learning leadership in a classroom. “It is completely different to lead a team in an environment where a leader’s mistakes can cost daylight, calories, warmth, and morale.” he said, “Darden students aren’t Marines, and the trip provided an extraordinary opportunity for me to adapt my leadership style to a diverse group with a wide range of backgrounds, risk tolerances, and priorities.”
Our NOLS instructors also pushed us to improve our “expedition behavior,” a mantra that embodies good teamwork, active followership, and mindfulness. If you see something that needs to be done in camp, do it. If you have a suggestion for a better route on the map, speak up. If you see a teammate struggling, offer to carry some extra weight to lighten their load. Share the precious last Fig Newton you had been saving when you notice someone needs an energy boost. The Darden team fully embraced this mentality and their small acts of unselfishness had a huge impact on the success of an expedition. I will be forever grateful for the untold number of sacrifices, words of encouragement and respect that my teammates gave me.
Never was that spirit more critical than on our final day, when we rose before sunrise and hiked five miles to reach our rendezvous point. Bone tired and freezing cold, it took every ounce of energy and will to keep going. Yet despite our miserable state, all I could hear in the darkness (on our supposedly “silent hike”) was laughter and encouraging comments. One student sang a song about breakfast burritos and we chuckled to discover another, in the dim light, proudly sporting his favorite purple long johns sans pants.
As the rising sun filled the canyon with a red glow, I was struck with a pang of sadness that our journey had come to an end. I was going to miss the camaraderie, the cheesy bagels fried over a carefully balanced camp stove, and our intense sense of common purpose. Yet as I hiked the last miles of the trip, I took heart in the fact that the hard-earned lessons of the past week extended far beyond the trail.
Truly, this course was unlike any at Darden.
This post originally appeared in the February edition of the Darden School of Business' news journal, The Cold Call Chronicle.
WMI Works to Reduce Paper Usage
The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute hosts 750 courses around the world each year. WMI offers courses for students interested in gaining practical knowledge in backcountry emergency and medical care. Teaching sessions are divided into classroom time and outdoor emergency scenarios. Outside of class, students study hard using their course books. Instructors get packets too, containing logistical information, exams, and quizzes. While WMI instructors are teaching cutting edge curriculum and facilitating lifelike medical scenarios in stunning backcountry settings, folks in the WMI office are fine-tuning another critical component of their courses: the paperwork. Staff took the time to rethink their paper usage in forms and exams with the goal of reducing waste.
To accomplish this, WMI asked a group of instructors to identify what they were and were not using in their packets. Over the years, extra pages have been added into the packet in response to demand. Instructors pointed out the sections of the course packets commonly overlooked or not used, and eliminated those sections. For example, thirty-five pages from the two-day WFA course were removed. That is a 17,500-page reduction for this course type in one year! This will cut down on shipping weight and reduce the amount of paper recycled or thrown away.
More often than not, Wilderness EMT students arrive at their course with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and computers and Internet access are available where courses are taught. Transition from paper to electronic tests and quizzes within the WEMT program has been especially beneficial. The paper usage been reduced by 12,500 pieces of paper per year. Instructors also have more flexibility to review exams and identify patterns in performance using item analysis features within the online platform. With this new ability, instructors can eliminate questions or choose to focus more time on certain subject material.
WMI has reassessed their paper usage for every course type. In all, this is expected to save nearly 60,000 pieces of paper annually, the equivalent of a twenty-foot tall stack of paper! This paper reduction movement is another exciting step in the school’s sustainability journey.
Get to Know NOLS Alaska
We got a quick Q&A session in with Janeen Hutchins, NOLS Alaska Director, during a busy Presidents Day weekend.
If you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:
Our staff are dedicated, passionate, fun and a tight knit group; we work hard and play hard!
How long have you been Director at NOLS Alaska?
I have had the honor to serve NOLS Alaska students and staff since April 2012.
What is your background with NOLS? Or how did it all begin for you?
When I was a junior in college I saw a presentation on NOLS and I instantly knew it was the type of adventure and education I was looking for. That summer I embarked on a Wind River Mountaineering course and I was hooked. It was a life-changing experience and influences everything I do, even today.
My course gave me the skills and resume builder I needed to start working at a teen adventure program. A few years later I was back at NOLS for my instructor course.
Since 2001 I have been lucky enough to be a part of others' life-changing experiences at NOLS both as an instructor and while supporting courses from in-town.
After serving the school at NOLS Rocky Mountain, NOLS Southwest, NOLS Professional Training and in human resources, I landed my dream job at NOLS Alaska.
What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?
Alaska is majestic. Whether sea kayaking amongst calving glaciers or climbing snow covered peaks, around every corner there is a breathtaking view and you feel as if you were the first person to step foot in the area. The mountains are huge and the sense of adventure is unparalleled.
What unique or particularly appealing aspect of Alaska do you think potential students should know about?
The "wow factor." I can't say it enough that Alaska is impressive. It really is! They say everything in Alaska is bigger and it's true. The mountains, the glaciers, the forests, the tundra, everywhere you go you are surrounded by immense beauty. Then add doing something rewarding like crossing a glacier or the thrill of having your groceries delivered by a bush plane, it's a true adventure!
What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?
The midnight sun. In the summer, the sun sets after midnight and rises well before the early bird. The days seem endless and there is no need for a headlamp—it's awesome!
Explore Alaska futher by finding the perfect course here.