OLP has been training professional outdoor leaders and guides for almost three decades, and we continue to fine-tune our recipe for success. Our content focuses on four-season outdoor activities skills acquisition within a living laboratory of personal and group development opportunities. The curriculum includes training in the following core areas:
- Backcountry Travel – expedition planning, weather forecasting, navigation, stove and equipment management, nutrition and cooking, shelter building techniques, backcountry ethics and expedition behavior, and emergency care;
- Natural/Cultural History and Environmental Education – Leave No Trace practices, study of ecosystems (flora and fauna identification, forest zones, geology, etc.); knowledge of land management agencies and issues; human history/relationships with natural surroundings and sustainability issues;
- Water Environments – flat and white-water canoeing; kayak touring, white-water, coastal kayaking and rolling; environment specific safety and rescue applications;
- Vertical Environments – top rope, multi-pitch and artificial wall climbing; management issues and rescue applications;
- Challenge Course Environments – adventure theory, philosophy and practice; group development activities, initiatives, low and high elements; management issues and rescue applications;
- Winter Environments – mountaineering and technical ice climbing; snow science and avalanche safety; Nordic skiing – classical, skate and telemark techniques and multi-day backcountry ski and snowshoe touring;
- Risk Management – current industry practices for physical and emotional safety awareness and emergency procedures; Wilderness First Responder (WFR) reviews, hazardous terrain and environmental management issues.
A focus on human relations – the “living laboratory”
While an emphasis on technical skills is a significant and essential part of the OLP curriculum, OLP staff and students recognize the equal importance of human relation skills in training successful outdoor leaders and team members. These skills support and balance technical skill competencies and help our students develop to their fullest potential:
“A most valuable aspect was the human relations/group dynamics skills I learned. Knowing technical skills is important but to me the quality of the program depends on the leader’s ability to read the group, help process information, and keep things positive and healthy.” – OLP Alum
Our curriculum provides a theoretical and practical perspective on individual and group roles, dynamics and development. Specifically, our living laboratory allows students to learn and practice:
- the application of adventure foundations such as Expedition Behavior, Challenge by Choice and the Full Value Contract;
- a culture of inclusion and the perspective that embracing our diversity provides opportunities for personal growth and strong leadership;
- awareness of self and others’ learning styles, teaching and leadership styles;
- communication skills, judgment and decision making skills;
- management of co-leadership dynamics and healthy leadership potential;
- conflict resolution techniques;
- tolerance for emotional and physical discomfort and adversity;
- on-going self -awareness of strengths and stretches and effective group evaluation;
- ability to give, seek and apply appropriate feedback;
- goal setting – developing and implementing Individual and Leadership Action Plans;
- Stewardship and servant leadership through community service.
Throughout the curriculum, we focus on issues in responsible leadership, including professional ethics, social and environmental justice considerations. You and other adult learners will spend a full academic year together with core instructional staff as an experiential learning community, the OLP’s “living laboratory.” Each year a group of students with a range of ages and life experiences are joined in an amazing community experience: college graduates, people making career or life changes, first time college students, and professionals seeking specialized training. Students and staff get to know each other well, developing and practicing the interpersonal skills required of qualified and successful leaders. Best of all, students are highly motivated lifelong learners with a strong desire to continually improve skills and make positive contributions towards creating a better world. You can’t get this kind of in-depth experience and continuity in a more traditional two- or four-year academic program.