Monday, June 8, 2015

Into Outdoor Education

Scouting a climbing area with GirlVentures staff at Pinnacles National Park, February 2015
I'm bemused at the turn life has taken. Two years ago, I'd never imagined working in outdoor education. My work life very much revolved around being in the city, in offices and libraries and coffee shops. Then I got the opportunity to work a backpacking trip with GirlVentures in April 2014, shortly after which I signed up for a 5-day Women of Color Backpacking trip with Balanced Rock Foundation which was, amazingly, co-led by a badass Khmer American woman. On that trip and beyond, I met more women of color who integrate outdoor trip leading into their lives, both professionally and personally.

From the NOLS WMI WFR Handbook
After I went to live and work at NOLS in Wyoming for nine weeks and encountered even more people who spent a big part of their lives outdoors, and though only a few of the people I met were Asian American, I gained more of that sense of permission and possibility that I gained from the Balanced Rock trip. I then signed up for a WMI Wilderness First Responder certification course using the Americorps Segal Education Award I'd earned as a Public Ally in Los Angeles back in 2012 (everything is connected). The course would have felt prohibitively expensive if not for that, which is also true of the Balanced Rock course I took-- I received tuition assistance for that, as well.

This past spring, I worked as an instructor on three courses run by GirlVentures: climbing at Pinnacles National Park with 6th grade girls, backpacking at Point Reyes National Seashore with 7th grade girls, and climbing at Castle Rock State Park with a mixed-gender group of high school students. It was exhilarating to spend all that time outdoors and to get to watch students transition from being squeamish about camping at all to happily digging catholes.

I would have loved to instruct on one of GV's summer courses if I weren't embarking on another trip on Wednesday: I'm heading to Alaska to spend 30 days backpacking in the Eastern Chugach Mountains with 3 NOLS instructors and a group of 12 students, age 16 &17. It will be my first time spending so long in the backcountry, my first time in Alaska, and my first time witnessing the NOLS progression.

I'm excited and nervous, which typically means I've made a good decision. 

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