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What Wilderness Means to Us

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To me, Wilderness means we still have a place to go. A place to go immerse in pure, fresh water, a place to go sit on top of a ridge and watch the sun dip below the horizon, a place to go and enjoy the peaceful quietness of an alpine meadow on a sunny summer day. We still have a place to be us.

—Mike Casella, NOLS Marketing Representative

Join Mike at the celebration of the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary in Albuquerque this weekend. Learn more here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

What Wilderness Means to Us

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As a kid camping in the Wilderness on our annual father-son camping trips to Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains, the grandeur of the untrammeled alpine has always been a source of inspiration, reflectiveness, and challenge for me. Since making my career as a Wilderness advocate, I have come to appreciate the Wilderness legacy that has been bestowed upon us by so many great conservation heroes: people like Olas and Mardy Murie, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir. Because of their vision, I can take my children to those same special places that my dad took me, and discover those places anew through their eyes.

—Aaron Bannon, NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director

Join Aaron at the celebration of the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary in Albuquerque this weekend. Learn more here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 15, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

Take Care of Things: Goodbye Alfred

On the last night of my NOLS course Mandy Pohja pulled an essay out of her pack and we all sat down to debrief the course. We took turns reading “Briefing for Entry into a More Harsh Environment” by Morgan Hite.

It talked about what we could take home from a NOLS course. One of the points is to, “take care of things.”

Hite wrote, “Take care of things. In that other world it's easy to replace anything that wears out or breaks, and the seemingly endless supply suggests that individual objects have little value. Be what the philosopher Wendell Berry calls ‘a true materialist.’ Build things of quality, mend what you have and throw away as little as possible.”

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This was the original backpack Pohja took on her student course years ago and she has taken care of it through many good nights in the backcountry.

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Pohja reflected on her time with her backpack, “Today I said goodbye to my good friend, Alfred (Yes, I named my backpack, and yes I can fit inside of it). Over the past seven years we have spent 300 nights camping and 1,000 miles hiking together in some amazing places.

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Thanks Alfred for all the amazing adventures, and thanks to countless NOLS students and instructors for putting up with his shenanigans.

Alfred, you will be missed.”

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Congrats to Mandy for providing an excellent example to students and instructors of how to take care of your gear!

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Sep 30, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Rocky Mountain

Introducing the First Annual NOLS Exploration Film Tour

This year marks the inaugural NOLS Exploration Film Tour, a series of free events hosted by NOLS that feature outstanding short films created by or about NOLS grads and instructors. The tour has been a hit thus far. After four events—Fairbanks, Anchorage, Bellingham, and Olympia—we are still having fun and learning a lot.

The Exploration Film Tour aimed to be something different. The main goal was to encourage increased participation in outdoor activities by making them more accessible. Secondly, we wanted to broaden recognition and a better understanding of the NOLS name and mission. All showings were free, making room for the curious as well as those already connected to the world of outdoor adventure. We maintained a high standard for films included in this tour and managed to gather nine that inspired, challenged stereotypical cultural norms about who the outdoor enthusiast is, and encouraged critical thought about the outdoors.

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All the films are being well received at each location. After each show, there are many thanks from attendees and requests to return next year. Highlights for the audiences have included Craig Muderlak’s film “Maiden Light,” as well as “Golden Ears” and “An American Ascent,” a film about NOLS Expedition Denali. Viewers have raved about watching women climb hard, educational and environmental themes, and the focus on real people rather than sponsored, professional athletes. 

We are looking forward to bringing the tour to Birmingham,  Atlanta, Greensboro, and Cookeville. Learn more and get your free ticket at explorationfilmtour.com

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Sep 29, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni

Voice of America Visits NOLS to Profile YALI Fellow

This week Andrea Tadic and Philip Alexiou, journalists from Voice of America visited NOLS Headquarters and NOLS Rocky Mountain in Lander, Wyoming.

Based in Washington, D.C., Voice of America is an English language news program, which broadcasts internationally.

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They came to profile Dziedzorm “JayJay” Segbefia who was part of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). This program is run through the United States State Department, and this summer 500 fellows from all parts of Africa participated in the six-week fellowship program.

First the fellows were sent to different colleges where they took classes on public management, civic leadership, and business entrepreneurship. JayJay was sent to Dartmouth College to participate in a business program.

In Ghana, JayJay is the Expedition Leader for Bravehearts Expeditions. His company takes youth into the wilderness and pushes them to new limits.

“I applied for YALI because I saw in it an opportunity for coaching, personal development, and business education all in one category” said JayJay.

 

After the culturally engaging sessions at Dartmough, Segbefia was placed at an internship at NOLS Rocky Mountain. An employee at the United States State Department was a NOLS alumna and identified NOLS as an ideal fit for JayJay’s internship.

JayJay came to Wyoming and spent time working at NOLS Rocky Mountain in the issue room and food rations store The Gulch. 

When the film crew arrived in Lander, fellow JayJay had just returned from a Wind River Wilderness – Prime course. Tadic and Alexiou visited NOLS Rocky Mountain where JayJay gave them a tour and talked about his experiences both on the course and during his internship.

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They also headed up to Sinks Canyon to shoot some footage of him rock climbing, a skill he developed and got passionate about during his time with NOLS.

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JayJay plans to use his experiences and practices learned at NOLS back at his own company. 

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While in Lander, the film crew also had the chance to speak with some NOLS employees about the school and their personal experiences in the field.

Stay tuned in the coming months for the pieces profiling both JayJay and NOLS!

Permalink | Posted by Kim Freitas on Sep 25, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, In The News, Rocky Mountain

Teton Valley Ranch Camp and the WRMC

The latest installment of the WRMC blog series profiles Teton Valley Ranch Camp (TVRC), a Western style youth camp that has been operating in Wyoming for 75 years, and stands as Wyoming's most historic residential summer camp. In this interview we caught up with TVRC Executive Director Carly Platt.

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The mission of Teton Valley Ranch Camp is to provide educational excellence in camp programming in an enriching western environment. 

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WRMC: What do your participants gain from the wilderness setting?

TVRC: An appreciation and love for the wild places of Wyoming and the planet. An understanding of the principles and practices of Leave No Trace. Knowledge about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: wildlife, plant life, geology, ecology, and our role as stewards of the environment. Recognition that spending time in the outdoors can be FUN! The basic hard skills needed to plan and execute a backcountry expedition and an ability to identify hazards and manage risk proactively.

WRMC: Why does your organization send employees to the WRMC?

TVRC: Risk management is an important practice in all aspects of our organization's programming. The WRMC has been particularly helpful for us as we make policy and decisions to manage the risk of bringing young children on backpacking and horse packing trips in remote Wyoming wilderness areas. Especially helpful to us in recent years have been ideas for staff training, advice on legal considerations, and conversations about "hot topics" and other current industry trends. Another hugely beneficial aspect of the conference is networking and sharing ideas with other backcountry program directors. It is helpful to speak with others in the backcountry industry, even if their programs look very different from our summer camp setting.

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WRMC: How has attending the WRMC helped you provide a better experience for your participants?

TVRC: By regularly attending the WRMC, we are able to stay informed about current industry standards and best practices to ensure an objectively high quality, educational, and fun experience for our campers. At the conference, we are challenged annually to revisit our programmatic decisions and to incorporate exciting new ideas in the months leading up to our summer season. Through lessons and frameworks we have learned over the years, we have also been able to incorporate risk management into our curriculum as an important takeaway for our staff and campers alike!

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WRMC: How has attending the WRMC changed the way you manage your program?

TVRC: Attending the WRMC has provided our year-round staff with principles, resources, and connections to make risk management an institutional priority. More than anything, the opportunity to have conversations and share ideas with other leaders in the backcountry industry has made our program stronger and stronger with each year we attend.

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We feel lucky to have outstanding WRMC attendees like the staff from Teton Valley Ranch Camp joining the discussion each year. For the chance to network with knowledgeable and experienced folks from TVRC and other similar organizations please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.

Click on the image below to learn more about the WRMC or to register online.

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Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Aug 28, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

City Kids Wilderness Project and the WRMC

The Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) unites hundreds of the nation’s leading outdoor organizations, schools, and businesses annually in an effort to “offer an outstanding educational experience to help mitigate the risks inherent in exploring, working, teaching, and recreating in wild places.” WRMC attendees absorb and learn a lot from one another through workshops, exercises, structured networking sessions, and much more.

We want to highlight some of the organizations that continually come the WRMC and find out why they attend and how the WRMC has influenced their risk management practices. Recently, we interviewed Colleen McHugh, the program director of City Kids Wilderness Project (CKWP), an outstanding nonprofit youth organization that has been returning annually to the WRMC.

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City Kids Wilderness Project is founded on the belief that providing enriching life experiences for underserved and at-risk D.C. children can enhance their lives, the lives of their families, and the greater community. 

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WRMC: What do your participants gain from wilderness or remote settings?

McHugh: Each youth experiences something different from their wilderness experiences at City Kids. The program is a multi-year commitment for each youth. They begin their experience at the end of sixth grade, and our goal is to continue working with each individual through high school graduation and beyond. In returning each summer to the Jackson Hole area as well as participating in outdoor activities throughout the school year, youth develop a long-term relationship with the wilderness. For some, it provides a sense of peace and reflection, and for others it provides challenge and an opportunity to push themselves. A few find a life-long love of the outdoors and continue to pursue it as a field of study or career choice. Most of our campers talk about their experience as empowering and significant in expanding their worldview and their understanding of their own personal strengths and capabilities. City Kids becomes a second home for participants, a break from stressors of their life in D.C., and a space for them to explore their potential.  

WRMC: Why does your organization send employees to the WRMC?

McHugh: As a small organization, the WRMC is a great opportunity for City Kids as an organization and individual staff members to connect with resources and other organizations. The WRMC allows us to learn from the experiences of larger programs and draw on resources from programs and experts who have developed great tools for their own programs. It has been extremely helpful in helping staff members calibrate our own practices with others in the industry and talk and compare with programs of a similar size. Sending multiple staff members has allowed us to spread out during the conference and make the most of the networking and workshops offered; additionally, the diversity in workshops allow both program staff and management staff to attend programs most relevant to their roles. It also provides a critical space and time in a busy program schedule for staff to step back and focus on risk management in the implementation of our programs.   

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WRMC: How has attending the WRMC helped you provide a better experience for your participants?

McHugh: On an organizational level, all staff and participants are more actively engaged in risk management. Clarity in our risk management practices have provided a more consistent experience for participants and translated to more clear program goals in the education of participants. This has been empowering for participants taking a more active role in managing risk within the group or as an individual. Youth in the program now play an active role in all trip activity briefings. Overall, the practices learned from the WRMC have helped us provide more structure and thoughtful programs for participants, which translates to a better experience on a daily level.  

WRMC: How has attending the WRMC changed the way you manage your program?

McHugh: Over the last few years, attending the WRMC has significantly impacted how City Kids manages risk and operates as a program. The WRMC and NOLS Risk Management Training have provided a language, common framework, and structure for our management team in addressing risk. Broadly, the WRMC has stimulated conversation about organizational risk and program goals and again provided a common framework for staff members to discuss risk management. More specifically, attending the WRMC prompted some significant review of our risk management practices. Some of these projects include reviewing and updating our participant agreement, reviewing and updating our medical review system, writing a risk management plan, and thinking critically of our design of staff training. Risk management is now a part of the living culture of City Kids and ingrained in the ways we talk and implement our programs.

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We would like to extend a big thank you to City Kids Wilderness Project for their contributions to the WRMC every year. We look forward to having them share their knowledge and experiences again this year. Come take advantage of the opportunity to network with the great folks at City Kids Wilderness Project and other similar organizations. Join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.

Click on the image below to learn more about the WRMC or to register online.

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Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Aug 14, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Montana Conservation Corps & the WRMC

In this installment of the Wilderness Risk Management Conference blog series, we are focusing our attention on the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). This nonprofit development program for young adults has been following in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, using conservation projects to foster citizenship and personal growth in its members. WRMC staff caught up with Montana Conservation Corps Program Director Lee Gault, who represented MCC at the WRMC 10 years ago, and asked him about the dynamic relationship that has been evolving between MCC and the WRMC for over a decade.

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In the span of one year, the MCC, as a single branch, is able to train 300-400 participants of varying age groups and backgrounds. The different programs offered at MCC also vary greatly. One program in particular, the Veterans Green Corps, serves American military veterans who are “transitioning from military to civilian life” and “range in age from 24-35” said Gault. Using the training and exposure that the MCC program provides, many American veterans who are MCC alumni are able to transition into civilian positions and go on to work with the national parks service and the national forest service.

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In addition to the veterans program, roughly 80 percent of MCC members are young adults who work on projects ranging from bioresearch and watershed restoration to trail restoration, community service, and much more. While at MCC, participants go through a maturation process brought on through challenging projects and “usually return with a firm commitment to advocate for, protect, and defend wilderness and our public lands in general” said Gault.

The MCC curriculum is designed to help members foster a deep-seated passion for the great outdoors through leadership development, technical outdoor skills, and environmental stewardship. MCC field programs hire “about 250 young adults, 18-30 years old from all over the country and all education levels,” Gault said. “All of them are AmeriCorps national service participants, and they serve varying length terms of service from a three-month summer term to a full nine months. We also serve around 150 Montana high-school-age teens in our summer Youth Service Expeditions program. They do a month-long mini-MCC experience completing most of the same work as our field crews.”

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After such a longstanding commitment to attending the WRMC, we asked Gault to explain why MCC decides to send staff to the WRMC year after year. “We have found the WRMC to be the best professional development opportunity for risk management related to our field. There are topics relevant to every staff person at every level. It keeps us abreast of the state of the art in risk management, and it exposes our staff to the top thinkers and practitioners in the field,” Gault explained. “Every year we make changes and adaptations to our current practices, procedures and policies based on things we learned from the WRMC.”

Gault emphasized that the WRMC has provided a better experience for MCC participants: “[The WRMC] has helped in almost every area: screening and intake, hiring, training, leadership, field communication, in-field medical care, fostering positive crew dynamics, technical practices, emergency response, even office practices.”

As a community-empowering conservation organization, MCC stands as a great asset to the outdoor community and we are proud to have them as a contributing member of the WRMC family once again this year. If you are a community-based conservation organization, come take advantage of the opportunity to network with the knowledgeable staff from MCC and other similar organizations. Please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.

To learn more about the WRMC or to register online, click on the following image:

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Written and Edited by Rahel Manna

Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Aug 12, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Thoughts From the Field: Rediscovering My Calling

Thoughts From the Field:  Rediscovering My Calling

By Scott Taylor, 2013 Spring Semester in Australia

Before my NOLS course, I had taken a break from the university of Vermont because my priorities had become unhinged. I saw NOLS as a way to get my feet wet in an untraditional educational arena as well as embark on the coolest adventure I have ever done.

On the plane from Boston to Western Australia, the contrasting emotions of apprehension and excitement pulsed through me. upon our arrival at NOLS Australia, my coursemates, instructors, and I divvied up 75 days worth of food and medical rations for 16 college-aged students from the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands.

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In the frontcountry, civilization and infrastructure allow us to live a convenient but hectic existence. In the backcountry, wilderness tested our physical ability, emotions, and decision-making abilities. Each day, two students were scheduled
to be Leader of the Day, which entailed
safely scouting and navigating rapids,
keeping the convoy of canoes in a
tight formation, managing breaks, and
selecting campsites. During the river
section of the semester, we also each
researched and taught two short classes.

The emphasis on the hiking
section was on map reading and route-
planning. As we progressed as a group
and individually, the instructors’ role
in decision making became less prevalent, and they eventually stopped traveling with us during the day. Each afternoon, we rejoined them in time for class. We were also required to teach another class, write two essays, and keep a species list. As our navigation and risk management skills grew, we earned the privilege of spending the last week traveling in the absence of the instructors entirely.

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The next week we spent with Aboriginals of the Bardi tribe. We learned about their cultural structure, built spears and fished for dinner, and took part in storytelling. I am truly grateful for the time they spent with us.

I learned a tremendous amount about myself, and I feel like for the first time in my life I am on the right track to further my education and pursue and explore my passion. NOLS reinforced my longstanding interest in the outdoors, and I immediately started building on that. I am now a natural resource management major and ecological restoration minor at Colorado State University. I attribute a large part of my current situation and progress in a field I am passionate about to my time in Australia with NOLS. I cannot praise the program enough.

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Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 4, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

The Australia Backpacking Course Back From the Bush

After 35 days out bush, our Backpacking Course students returned to Broome for their final pack up and graduation. Their backpacking section was quite an adventurous journey through the King Leopold Ranges. They experienced some of the true wonders of the Kimberley environment, hiking through open savannah grasslands with pockets of tropical rainforests. Some of their highlights included close encounters with the local wildlife, swimming under crystal clear waterfalls, exploring the Munboon Plateau, a 40 hour solo and a highly successful Small Group Expedition.

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After the ABC completed their backpacking section, they traveled to the Jarlmadangah Burra aboriginal community to learn about local Indigenous culture. They camped in the center of the community, learned from guide, TJ, and played basketball with some of the local kids. It was interesting for the students to learn about the people who have lived sustainably on the land they had been travelling on for so long.

 

 

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We farewell our amazing ABC students as they transition into their lives back home or continue onto new adventures. Keep posted for the NOLS Australia short film coming out later this year with some highlights of this awesome experience.

Permalink | Posted by plus.google.com/111321812422337541486 on Aug 4, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

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