Greenfield Community College

Greenfield Community College


All students who graduate from the Outdoor Leadership Program will receive a Certificate in Outdoor Leadership by Greenfield Community College and the State of Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. In addition to this certificate, OLP provides students with the following two other forms of professional qualification:

National Certifications and Advanced Training

  • American Canoe Association
  • Professional Climbing Instructors of America
  • Association for Challenge Course Technology
  • American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education
  • Professional Ski Association of America
  • Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

OLP designed Leadership Ratings

In some content areas, such as Backcountry Travel,  there are no nationwide governing boards that regulate certifications. To provide students with standards to measure themselves by, OLP instructors
evaluate students under a competency system tied to national standards for programming in the activity area. The Leadership Ratings were developed for three reasons:

  1. to allow individuals to progress at their own particular level of ability
  2. to provide students with insights into the complexity of programs they should be leading upon graduation
  3. to provide prospective employers with the same understanding

The Outdoor Leadership Program seeks to help students improve their teaching and leadership skills to achieve the highest possible competency within an academic year. Students evaluate their progress on an ongoing basis through a series of individual meetings with staff.

OLP believes the nationally recognized certifications are best awarded in conjunction with extensive fieldwork. To that end, OLP students conduct multiple, supervised days with area clients where they get direct feedback regarding their performance.

OLP offers students the opportunity to obtain national certification in activity areas where they exist. Where there are no national certifications, OLP instructors evaluate students under a competency system tied to national standards for programming in the specific activity area. Students evaluate their progress on an ongoing basis through methods of constructive self and peer feedback and a series of individual meetings with staff. Available certifications are noted under specific content categories below.

Backcountry Travel
Here is the core of our program! We use field experiences to train students to lead multi-modal and multi-season trips in remote locations. We integrate the Wilderness Education Association (WEA) core curriculum across multiple expeditions – canoe touring, backpacking, winter mountaineering, ski/snowshoe touring and coastal kayaking. Students leave with the ability to plan and lead extended trips in various wilderness environments with environmental education and risk management skills. Backcountry Leadership is available through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Leave No Trace Trainer certification is available through the Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Our canoe training begins with a solid immersion in September – intensive instruction leading to a 10-day backcountry canoe expedition in New York’s Adirondack State Park. Our “floatable classroom” allows natural and cultural history of river habitat and land use to unfold, along with outdoor living and flat/whitewater preliminary skill development. Students participate in and co-create a culture of Expedition Behavior for teamwork and leadership, learn and practice Leave No Trace Principles and develop their personal wilderness ethics and practice. By the trip’s end, students are exposed to Class II whitewater, packing systems, camp craft and group dynamics. They then return to the college to deliver fieldwork programming in canoe instruction and environmental education during the fall and spring semesters. This is an excellent foundation for the 7-day spring canoe course offering American Canoe Association (ACA ) [link –] instructor certification for students who meet requisite competences. ACA instructor certification is available for canoe touring, moving and whitewater river canoeing, and swift-water rescue.

Whitewater and Coastal Kayaking
Kayaking is booming on inland rivers and coastal waterways and with a shortage of experienced guides in the industry, OLP is training leaders to help fill these gaps. Kayak touring is so clearly aligned with our traditional focus on backcountry travel that it was a natural addition! Students begin in touring kayaks on inland waterways such as the Connecticut River during the fall semester, with transferable skills from the canoe program. Winter pool sessions provide an opportunity to refine strokes and learn kayak rolling. Students continue their education with a 6-day white water kayak course on local rivers in the spring, along with a 5-day expedition off the coast of Maine to practice ocean travel, navigation and coastal camping skills. ACA instructor certification is available in coastal kayaking, river kayaking and swift water safety & rescue for students who meet requisite competences.

Challenge Course Facilitation and Management
Challenge course programming is the foundation of teaching and leading any adventure activity, known in the industry as the “Swiss army knife of adventure education” (M.Stratton). This course is woven throughout the year as students learn adventure theory and philosophy as well as how to present, guide and debrief activities and initiatives integral to leadership. Specific training in low and high ropes elements for conducting challenge course experiences is introduced in the fall and advanced skills are added in the optional spring course. This orientation also pays invaluable dividends in group observation and management skills, refined through challenge course fieldwork deliveries with community groups. It is perhaps the toughest program area to grasp because facilitation skills require much practice, while it provides the best foundation for emerging instructors and leaders. These transferable skills help develop motivated students into gifted facilitators of any outdoor activity, including extended backcountry expeditions. Challenge course practitioner certification is available for students who meet requisite competences through our Association of Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) professional vendor, High 5 Adventure Learning Center.

Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
OLP’s focus is to prepare students who can conduct excellent institutional top-rope programs. We take students to local rock sites for eight days in the fall to develop basic personal and instructional skills, and then we refine this orientation in several ways. Some students may choose and exposure to ice climbing on a winter mountaineering trip to test their rope skills under adverse environmental conditions. Additionally, the optional Avalanche Safety course continues to provide a solid base of transferrable risk management skills for hazardous terrain and vertical environments. The optional spring instructor course continues to refine students’ understanding of top-rope programming and site management, as well as exposes them to multi-pitch climbing in New Hampshire’s White Mountains or the ocean side cliffs of Acadia National Park in Maine. Top-rope instructor certification is available through the Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) for students who meet requisite competences. Level 1 Avalanche Safety is available through American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education.

Artificial Wall Climbing
OLP offers students training in climbing wall instruction and operations, which supports our long standing tradition of developing quality climbing instructors. The biggest growth in the climbing industry currently is rock gym management at retail stores, fitness facilities and academic institutions. We want our students to be a part of this work force, and with a 30′ wall right in our OLP classroom, we have an excellent facility for developing good climbing wall managers. The opportunity for students to practice throughout the year on our climbing wall also enhances their potential for successful certification in the Rock Climbing Instructor Course. Climbing wall instructor certification is also available through PCIA.

Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing
Whether the means of travel is on skis or snowshoes, the activities share some common techniques and goals, and we use both on our 10-day winter camping trips. The optional Nordic Skiing Instructor Course moves students beyond traditional classical skiing to speedy skating and graceful telemark turns. Students who meet the criteria can obtain Level 1 Nordic ski instructor certification from Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).

Risk Management
Managing and mitigating real risk is the number one priority for successful outdoor leaders. OLP staff maintain current knowledge and skills with risk management issues in our field, and we teach these protocols and standards to students throughout all content areas. Our unique relationship with the Association for Experiential Education helps expose students to all the various “voices” that must be addressed to have a successful risk management profile. Students also keep their Wilderness First Responder (a program pre-requisite) skills sharp with ongoing WFR simulations and through reviews led by medical professionals. Students are also exposed to a wide variety of technical simulations involving hazardous terrain rescue including high angle, confined space and swift water.