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Outdoor Action Leader Training Program

Becoming an Outdoor Action Leader

Do you enjoy the outdoors? Did you have a great time of your Frosh Trip? Are you interested in helping incoming Frosh have a great first experience at Princeton? We are looking for motivated students, graduate students and faculty or staff to become leaders for the Frosh Trip next September. Don’t consider yourself outdoorsy? Outdoor Action will teach you the skills you need to be competent in the outdoors. You don't need to have any prior outdoor experience, just a desire to learn. Our priorities are to find people who are excited about working with others and learning and teaching new skills, and who can bring a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds to the program. The more our leaders represent the Princeton campus, the more accurate an impression the Frosh will receive. The Outdoor Action Leader Training program is recognized across the country as one of the most comprehensive college outdoor leadership programs.

Outdoor Action encourages all students, faculty, and staff to participate in the OA Leader Training Program. OA’s Leader Training Program is considered one of the most comprehensive in the nation and has been imitated by numerous other schools. We offer training both for Wilderness Trip Leaders and for Community Service Leader training for those interested in doing community service with urban youth. You can sign up for all OA Leader Training and Community Service Leader Training activities at the OA TripStore.

Planning OA Leader Training into your Schedule

OA offers two complete sets of leader training each year. There is a fall semester training with the Leader Training Trip over Intersession and a spring semester training with the Leader Training Trip taking place during "Dead Week" after exams. You can mix and match when you take the various courses and workshops as long as you have completed all of the other requirements before going on your Leader Training Trip. 

We encourage all students to take part in the leader training program and have worked out a schedule which we feel is most flexible for a broad range of students. If you are an athlete or have other regular commitments, it is still possible to participate if you plan carefully.

Religious & Observant Students

Outdoor Action makes every effort to schedule Leader Training activities so that they do not interfere with religious holidays and observances. Whenever possible, workshops are scheduled on Sundays after church and not on the Sabbath for Jewish students. For observant Jewish students, the 6-day trip typically includes a Friday or Saturday. There is usually a trip in May that goes out Sunday and is back before sundown on Friday. Please need to contact the OA office ahead of time and let us know of your needs.

Varsity & Club Sport Athletes

Many athletes become OA Leaders either to lead Frosh Trips or other trips during the year. Depending on your sport(s) you may have to plan very carefully for when you can complete the various Leader Training Requirements.

Wilderness Leader Training

The Leader Training Program is open to anyone member of the Princeton University Community interested in leading OA trips or those interested in developing their outdoor leadership skills. Outdoor Action encourages all students, faculty, and staff to participate in the OA Leader Training Program. OA's Leader Training Program is considered one of the most comprehensive in the nation and has been imitated by numerous other schools. You will learn valuable wilderness skills including trip planning, menu planning, equipment selection and preparation, hiking techniques, map and compass skills and Leave No Trace camping practices. Participants also learn leadership, group facilitation, outdoor safety, and wilderness first aid skills. Participants utilize the best-selling Backpacker's Field Manual as the course for the training. Upon completion of the training program, you are eligible to apply to lead OA trips including the OA Frosh Trip.

The requirements for Basic Wilderness Leader are the following:

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) - (3 hours) This course teaches the skills of artificial respiration, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and obstructed airway management for adults. Certification must be renewed yearly. OA requires a minimum of certification in Adult CPR. Courses from either the Red Cross or the American Heart Association qualify as do longer courses such as Community CPR and CPR for the Professional Rescuer.
  • Wilderness First Aid Course - (20 hours) The HEART Wilderness First Aid Course is an intensive course that covers patient examination and evaluation, body systems and anatomy, wound care and splinting, environmental emergencies, and backcountry medicine all with a strong wilderness emphasis. OA also accepts other wilderness-based first aid training such as Wilderness Advanced First Aid, Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness EMT from SOLO, the Wilderness Medicine Institute, or Wilderness Medical Associates.
  • Facilitator's Workshop: (6 hours) This course focuses on specific areas of leading multi-day wilderness trips including challenge by choice, activity sequencing, and debriefing and processing.
  • Leadership & Group Dynamics Workshop: (6 hours) This course focuses on the basic leadership skills including the setting group goals, listening and communication skills, situational leadership, conflict resolution, and the stages of group development.
  • Leader Training Course: (10 hours) Leading a group on a backcountry trip requires extensive training in wilderness camping skills. The Leader Training Course (LTC) is designed to teach all the wilderness skills necessary to lead multi-day backpacking trips. The course meets one evening a week and includes workshops on route planning, equipment preparation, wilderness travel techniques, map and compass, outdoor cooking, and minimal impact camping. Trip participants will learn how to run a wilderness trip by planning all aspects of the trip, including route, food, and equipment. Participants are required to attend all classes. The text for the course will be the Backpacker's Field Manual, written by Outdoor Action.
  • Leader Training Trip: (6 days) The final part of OA Leader Training is the Leader Training Trip, a 6-day backpacking trip which pulls together all of the skills you have been learning all semester. During the trip participants will be Leaders-of-the-day and in charge of the group practicing skills.
  • Van Driver Training Course - OA Leaders are strongly encouraged to become authorized van drivers. You must complete an online course and quiz on driving mini-vans. Drivers must also complete a 30-minute road test. To gain access to the online course and schedule a road test see the Public Safety Web Site (http://web.princeton.edu/sites/publicsafety/FleetSafety.htm).

Skill Evaluation

Our goal is to create qualified outdoor leaders capable of successfully leading and facilitating groups on multi-day wilderness trips. As a result, Leaders-in-training are evaluated at various stages through the process to assess the level of their skill development. First Aid and CPR both have written and practical tests. The Leader Training Trip involves mastering a number of technical and leadership skills. Participants will be given constructive feedback throughout the trip along with an individual evaluation at the end of the trip.

Special Skill Areas

Trips involving more specialized activities such as winter trips, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, bike touring, cross-country skiing, or caving require additional training, experience and/or certification. OA offers a variety of specialized leader training courses in the following areas:

  • Winter Camping Leader Training Trip
  • Top Rope Climbing Course
  • Cross Country Skiing Instructor's Course
  • Canoeing Instructor's Course
  • Kayaking Instructor's Course

Community Service Leader Training

Community Service Facilitator Requirements: As well as learning group games and initiatives, facilitation and processing skills, participants develop a deeper understanding of the issues facing urban youth and how to manage difficult behavior. Upon completion of the training program, you are eligible to facilitate youth at risk populations. You are also encouraged to become a trained Adventure Course Facilitator so that you can also work with groups on the OA Adventure Course.

  • Facilitators Workshop: 8-hour workshop

Outdoor Action Instructor Requirements

Outdoor Action may utilize the services of various persons who are skilled in a particular area but who have not completed the entire leader training program or who, at the discretion of the Program Director, are not appropriately qualified to lead multi-day trips with a group dynamics format. The following policies will apply to these individuals:

1. The person interested in becoming an OA Instructor in a specific skill area must demonstrate knowledge of that skill at an appropriate level, ability to perform the skill themselves at a reasonable level, knowledge of safety and rescue issues for that skill, and the ability to teach the skill and interact well with participants. These qualifications may be presented through resume, discussion, and/or practical evaluation by the Program Director or other designated OA personnel. This information will be evaluated by the Program Director to ascertain whether the individual has the necessary qualifications to become an OA Instructor in that specific skill area.

2. If someone is selected as an instructor in a specific skill area they are required to complete the same specific skill training that a regular leader would be required to complete in order to lead a trip in that activity (see Leader Policies for that activity) or demonstrate the equivalent skills.

3. OA Instructors are required to be currently certified in CPR, HEART Wilderness First Aid or an equivalent level of training as a minimum of first aid training.

4. If the specific skill activity requires driving the group, the OA Instructor is required to be an Authorized Van Driver (unless not eligible).

5. OA Instructors are not to lead multi-day trips without the authorization of the Program Director.

6. These policies are effective for the following specific activities:

  • Rock Climbing
  • Canoeing
  • Caving
  • Kayaking
  • Cross-country Skiing

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© 1995 - 2010, all rights reserved, Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, The Trustees of Princeton University. You may set up links to material found at the Outdoor Action Web Site. Printed versions of the material may be distributed for nonprofit educational use as long as no fees are charged for the material, attributions are made to the author, and no content changes are made. Commercial use of this material either in electronic or printed form is prohibited. Send your comments and suggestions on the OA Web Site to Outdoor Action

Outdoor Action trips and activities are only open to Princeton University students, faculty, and staff. Specially listed activities are open to Princeton University alumni and their families. Lectures and film series are open to the public.