Students learn an effective outdoor leader has a good balance of the above skills.
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Stepping up to help build Lycoming College’s new Outdoor Leadership and Education program are four students who completed instructor training in May. During the 20-day non-credit course, called Introduction to Outdoor Leadership, the students learned a number of skills that will prepare them to lead outdoor excursions.
“Leading people during a wilderness activity requires more than technical skills, it requires sensitivity to human factors, and proper judgement to make sure the group remains safe,” said Jae Ellison, director of the College’s Outdoor Leadership program and course instructor. The new program provides opportunities for students to enhance personal growth, leadership, civic responsibility and environmental stewardship through interaction with the natural world.
Kaitlin Barmore, a sophomore from Succasunna, N.J.; Aaron Guzman, a sophomore from Houston, Texas; Sean Hastings, a junior from Levittown, Pa.; and Francisco Ocampo, a sophomore from Chicago, Ill., proved they are up to the leadership task.
The first task accomplished by the students was to obtain certification in wilderness medicine, which was taught on campus by Ellison who is an instructor for SOLO Wilderness Medical School. This course equipped students with knowledge and skills required to prevent and respond to backcountry emergencies.
The group then took a five-day backpacking trip on Old Loggers’ Path in Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County, Pa., where they developed skills such as camp site selection, backcountry cooking, and navigation for the trips that they will be leading.
After that trip, they returned to campus to lead an alumni group on a hike during alumni weekend and to prepare for their next foray into the wilderness.
They then embarked on another five-day trip to Little Pine State Park to build boating and water rescue skills. The students learned how to canoe and kayak on the flat waters of the state park’s lake and took turns practicing rescues with one other from the lake waters.
Returning to campus, they spent time in Lycoming’s pool to learn several safety techniques needed for white water kayaking. The students then practiced their white water kayaking skills on Pine Creek.
On the final day of their course, students debriefed on their experiences and wrote reflections about what they learned and what they would do differently. They also provided suggestions for future leadership courses.
“I learned from the trip that I need to be more thoughtful about how I look at things and to be more confident and assertive when making decisions. I need to analyze situations more carefully to ensure the safety of the participants and be ready to adapt plans,” said Ocampo, who was frequently the first to jump in on a difficult task. “I also better understand how my tone and word choice, particularly when morale is low, affects the whole group. As a leader, I need to maintain a positive outlook, even when I’m tired or discouraged myself.”
From left, Sean Hastings, Francisco Ocampo, Aaron Guzman, Kaitlin Barmore stand on top of Sharp Top Mountain in Tiadaghton State Forest. The students were rewarded for their hard climb to its peak with amazing scenery for lunch.
In Little Pine State Park, Guzman (left) and Ocampo learn paddling techniques for canoe and kayak and how to teach their peers paddle sports.