Thursday, November 12, 2015

How to be a Field Instructor

Field instructors. We all know them, the ones that pass through lives briefly attempting to instill a love and ownership of land in the hearts of many many many (many) children. Teaching and tromping and spending as many hours as humanly possible in the woods or under the stars; but for what? Why are we here? Our pupils all think we are crazy strangers who live in holes in the ground. Or some kind of cruel tormentors forcing them to hike through the woods to God knows where on a day when any sensible person would be inside playing video games. Do we ever make the desired impact on our courses? There are moments when the gleam of understanding or curiosity can spark a fantastic impromptu lesson when I know why I'm here.  "Nancy! What's this?!?" echoing through the forest for the 40th time in the last hour is the kind of excitement that validates my choice to work with the Mountain Institute. Curiosity abounds when the electronics get taken away and as field instructors it is our job to facilitate and encourage growth in unprecedented ways.  We may never know the full ripple effect of our endeavors while we are here on the mountain but some of the most measurable might be the impact we have had on each other. Community living is not always the easiest.  We are constantly together, working, eating, breathing, and teaching.  This fall a special effort has been made to allow for open, honest communication and I can personally say it has paid off.  I am not sure how much I have grown this season but this place has made an impact on me I will not soon forget.  Anyway, before I get too sappy here is an excellent picture of the group for most of the fall.

From left to right: Alyssa, Carolyn, Emily, Liz, Dan, Jackie, Will, Peter, Tree, Nancy, Maddie, Rachael, Brittany, and Ryan

These are sentences from every person volunteered at a moment's notice.  What a fantastic group!

Ryan: I am fond of wiggling  
Brittany: Less wine more cheese 
Tree: sometimes my left nostril gets clogged. 
Maddy: Fiddlesticks 
Will: I'm really great with a shovel 
Dan: I only live to get radical 
Emily: I think in punctual sometimes 
Jaqueline: sometimes, occasionally, my teeth feel not real 
Alyssa: I legitimately do not have one 
Carolyn: I like avocados 
Rachael: I'm getting married this weekend (this was a few weeks ago) 
Liz: They call me lizard 
Peter: Everybody yurts sometimes 
Nancy: Have you seen where we live? It's just...spectacular

By Nancy Lilly

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New Fall Season Field Instructors Welcomed to the Appalachian Program

The Mountain Institute’s Appalachian Program welcomed eight new seasonal staff for the fall season this August.  Some of them came as far away as South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Illinois, but most of the new staff are from the nearby states within the Mid-Atlantic region.  They all have their own special skill sets, backgrounds in the outdoors, and experiences forming a well-balanced and experienced staff.

Our new staff arrived shortly before the start of our field and residential courses to participate in an eight-day field-based staff training that was conducted here at Spruce Knob Mountain Center, in the Monongahela National Forest, and on the South Branch of the Potomac River.  To be fully prepared for our fall season adventure and education-based courses the training lessons and exercises focused on how to effectively facilitate expeditionary behavior and experiential and inquiry-based education while acclimating them to Spruce Knob and the surrounding area.  These lessons consisted of the framing and safety of rock climbing, gear and course procedures, West Virginia history, tree planting, stream study, forest ecology, astronomy, map and compass orienteering, beaver ecology, geology, caving, canoeing, survival skills, and sensory awareness activities just to name a few…

New staff participating in an orienteering lesson

Some of the new staff started their season with the Winston Preparatory School from New York City paddling the South Branch of the Potomac River, caving in the Sinks of Gandy, and rock climbing and zip lining at NROCKS Outdoor Adventure Center.  While others so far this season started on courses with Mountaineer Montessori from Charleston, Mater Dei from Bethesda, North Fork Elementary School from Circleville, Morgantown Learning School, and Edgewood Elementary School from Charleston implementing field and residential based experiential outdoor education courses at and around the Spruce Knob Mountain Center.

By Thomas Komir