This material is the Leader Training Course Chapter from the Outdoor Action Program Leader's Manual written by Rick Curtis, Director, Outdoor Action Program. This material may be freely distributed for nonprofit educational use. However, if included in publications, written or electronic, attributions must be made to the author. Commercial use of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author. Copyright © 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.
The Leader Training Course (LTC) is a fundamental part of the OA Program. It serves two purposes; to train new leaders and it stands on its own as a wilderness educational experience. This dual purpose is reflected in the complex nature of leading such a trip. First there is a strong focus on skill training for the participants so that they will have solid skills for when they lead their own trips. In addition, this may be the first OA trip for participants, so they need to go through an experience similar to what their future participants will go through. Just as on a regular OA trip, it is important to share the leadership responsibility with the participants. As they learn more about how to function in the wilderness environment, more responsibility is shifted to them by the leaders.
The goal of the LTC is to teach the requisite outdoor and trip planning skills to allow interested persons to lead Outdoor Action trips. Some of the skills are well-defined and easily grasped, such as lighting a stove. Others are much more abstract, involving simultaneous application of principles, equipment, and the confidence born of experience, such as successfully dealing with accidents and injuries. The learning of either type of skill is a matter of two ingredients: instruction and practice. On the LTC, instruction is given in all aspects of trip leadership: background information as well as hard skills. Instruction is given not only by the leader trainers, but also the participants, each of whom will research and teach a class to the whole group. The course is designed as an opportunity to learn and practice the leadership tasks performed on a regular OA 3-season backpacking trip. In order to facilitate learning, a small group is required; the LTC will consist of eight participants and two or three leader trainers. The Basic Leader Training Course covers the basic skills necessary to lead 3-season backpacking trips. A Bike Touring Leader Training Course is also offered to teach the skills necessary to lead multi-day bike touring trips (See OA Bike Leaders Manual). The LTC is divided into three sections-Pre-trip, Trip, and Post-trip.
An important part of the learning process for participants is learning how to teach. This is an essential skill for them to be effective leaders. The Leader Training Course is constructed so that each participant will be responsible for teaching certain skills to the rest of the group. Skills to be taught will be divided up between those which need to be taught before the trip and those which will be taught during the trip. All pre-trip material will be taught by the Leader Trainers to effectively transmit the information and to model effective teaching styles. The other material will be specifically assigned to participants. Pre-trip, participants will be required to develop a list with a short explanation of the basic concepts behind their topic area and present it to the Leader Trainers. There will be a group debriefing after each teaching session (including those done by the Leader Trainers) to give feedback to the person teaching and to reinforce the importance of good teaching. Teaching is a skill which will also be evaluated on the Evaluation Form. During the trip, participants will teach specific aspects of their subject taken from general topic outlines (see below). In some cases, some parts of the topic will be taught by the leader trainers.
Leader Trainers will meet with the Program Director to discuss goals and strategies for the course including, the philosophy of the Leader Training Program, pre-trip meetings, training during the trip, simulations and walkout policies, and the participant evaluation process at the end of the course.
Groups will meet 5 weeks prior to the trip in order to begin the course all pre-trip planning. Participants are required to attend all group meetings and prepare material for the class they will teach during the trip. Material for the classes will be taken from the OA Leader's Manual, the NOLS Wilderness Guide, other sources as needed. The first and last meetings before the trip itself will be run just like a regular OA backpacking trip pre-trip meeting would be run. This is designed to model how the future leaders would run their own trip.
Each participant will have one class to prepare prior to the trip. An outline of the basic skills the participant will cover must be given to the Leader Trainers before the trip leaves. During the trip each participant will teach his/her class. After any class is presented, the Leader Trainers should round it out with whatever they have learned out on the trail. Then the group should discuss and critique both the content and the presentation. This is not a test, but rather, an opportunity for helpful feedback. Possible areas for review include, clarity, confidence, creativity, and the ability to hold listeners' interest. Route planning should include setting aside about 2 hours each day for classes.
The schedule for the pre-trip sessions is detailed in Table 2.1. The schedule for classes and activities during the week is detailed in Table 2.2. Participants are to be assigned a class from the topics in Table 2.
Pre-Trip Activities Meeting Classes Other Tasks First Dressing for the Explain OA Backcountry priorities/goals and how Leader Training Course will operate. Hand out participant applications, Leader's Manuals, and Personal Equipment List. Sign out NOLS Wilderness Guides. Collect trip payment. Participants will select their classes. Schedule remaining meetings and decide on due date for class outlines. Read OA Policies and Leader training Chapter in Leader's Manual for next meeting. Second Route Planning Teaching Tour of Equipment Room. a Skill MSR Stove Class Plan route as a group Knot Class - round turn (need maps & route plan with two half hitches form). Third Food & Menu Planning Check food room for First Aid & Blister Kits stocks. Tarp set up. Optimus Stove Class. Knot Class - Trucker's Hitch Fourth General Minimal Impact Assemble group Class Peak 1 Stove Class equipment. Knot Class - Bowline Day before trip Backpack Class - sizing, Group Games. Practice wearing, loading tent set up. Review of equipment and food lists - prepare shopping list and buy items. Repack food. Distribute group equipment. Issue personal equipment. Pack backpacks.
The first day should be planned such that the group sets up camp after only ½ day of hiking. The Leader Trainers will serve as Leaders-of-the-Day (LD's) (see below). They should inform the group that they will lead the first day just like the first day any OA trip should be led. Before starting off, while the group is stretching, trail technique, minimal impact while hiking, and the schedule for water and sit-down breaks should be mentioned. LD's for the next day will be chosen.
LD pairs or trios will lead the middle three days of the trip, with each group in charge of a day from wake up to bedtime. LD's are responsible for everything as if the trip were a regular backpacking trip. This means that they are there to teach and encourage the other participants to take responsibility for running the trip. They are selected the night before by the Leader Trainers and are told how many classes to schedule the next day, and whether or not there will be a simulation. (See simulations below).
During the Trip Day Person Classes First Day Leader Trainers Blister Care, Water Purification, Dynamics of Accidents Model Leader Trainers Trail Technique Leader Trainers Terrain Association Leader Trainers Campsite Selection Participant Minimal Impact in Camp Day Person Classes Any Day Participant Nutrition Participant Group Games Participant Layering Participant Map Reading Participant Compass Use Participant Eleven Essentials Participant Hypothermia/Hyperthermia Participant Weather & Lightening Safety Leader Trainers Debriefing Leader Trainers Emergency Procedures Leader Trainers Lost Person Procedures Leader Trainers Knot Practice Leader Trainers Simulations
LD's are responsible for getting the group moving at whatever time necessary to comply with the planned route. The LD's keep track of pace, rest stops, blister checks, emotional checks, lead and sweep positions, lunch stop, coordinate breaks for teaching, and supervise campsite selection and construction. This is not to say that these two people do all these things, rather, it is their responsibility to make sure that all of these things get done. LD's will trade off leading with map and compass. LD's are responsible for getting the group moving at whatever time necessary to comply with the planned route. It is expected that the trainees will handle all aspects of camp selection and setup for the rest of the trip. Trainees should watch each other to make sure all things are handled properly. Leaders should perform tasks assigned to them by trainees rather than taking initiative to do things.
Evening can include a wide variety of activities. The leaders should have the group evaluate the day, how things progressed, what people learned (see Debriefing below). People should critique the teaching presentations to give feedback to the presenters. Leaders need to maintain a relaxed atmosphere so that this stays low key and informative. Also sharing previous trip experiences can be a useful experience for everyone.
Simulations are an important part of the leader training process and it is important that you do several simulations on the trip. Simulations are designed to teach participants some of the technical and group dynamic/leadership skills required in an accident or emergency situation. It is required that participants be made aware in advance that there will be several simulations during the trip and be told on what day the simulation(s) will take place. This is essential both from an ethical perspective and so that constant anticipation doesn't ruin the trip. The purpose of these simulations is to practice skills and to learn about the complex nature of emergency response. It is not a test or evaluation of individual's skills. The idea is that a low-pressure walk-through of the Emergency Procedures will imprint them far better on the participants than a confusing, high-pressure affair. Also, since some may not have first aid, the key is focusing on their overall response, not specific treatments. Keep in mind that an accident scenario can be a highly emotional experience. We want to give people an experience with emergency procedures not emotionally traumatize them.
The purpose of a walkout is to give the trainees the experience of what it will be like to be completely in charge of a trip. It is essential, therefore, that the following policies be complied with.
An informal debriefing should be done daily, preferably at night, to check on how the day went, how people are feeling, what they learned, etc. The last night of the trip (or at the end of the last day) both an individual and a group final debriefing should be done (see Section 9 - Leadership: Transferring the Experience). After dinner, Leader Trainers should meet in a removed spot with each participant for 10-15 minutes. Here are some of the questions you should consider asking.
These outlines are designed to aid in the learning process for those training to be leaders and to serve as an extensive trip preparation outline for leaders leading trips. For the Leader Training Course, some of these topics will be covered before the trip, and some will be covered during the trip.
The following subjects will be covered by the leader trainers.
Copyright © 1995 Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.