Northwoods Leadership Instructor Course
  • Northwoods Leadership Instructor Course
Immerse yourself in the field of outdoor programming through this comprehensive course for aspiring outdoor educators.  Designed for those interested in careers in adventure and experiential education, this course focuses on sea kayaking, canoeing, backpacking and rock climbing skills development.  Learn group facilitation methods and creative course planning strategies.  Study risk management with groups in a variety of settings and situations, planning for and actually teaching local youth.  Wilderness First Responder and Leave No Trace courses are included and academic credit is available.  

Your group of six to ten students will complete an expedition in the style of Outward Bound, learning about wilderness education through direct experience.  Your instructors and other staff will enrich your expedition with seminars and discussions about how to teach both the skills you know and learn, plus broader issues concerning how to manage a wilderness experience to achieve specific goals for individuals and groups. 

In addition to developing outdoor technical, group, individual management and teaching skills, you will learn philosophy and curriculum specific to Outward Bound, the world's original outdoor education institution.  Successful graduates will be well positioned for future work with camp programs, wilderness trip providers, high school or college outdoor programs, and Outward Bound.

COURSE Description

Your group will travel to the Canadian shore of Lake Superior.  From there you begin your sea kayak expedition from Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA) along Lake Superior's north shore.  You will learn the art of paddling a sea kayak in varied weather, landing the craft in a variety of conditions, as well as navigation and rescue techniques.  Your instructors will share the secrets of balancing your boat, handling it safely in the elements, and how to effectively teach these skills to others.

You will develop your paddling and teaching skills as you come to know your group while traveling and camping along the rugged, rocky shoreline.  You will experience challenging open water crossings where fog, waves, and weather challenge you to employ your newly acquired navigation skills.  

Your 18-20-day canoe expedition across the rugged and remote Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will explore gigantic 150,000 acre lakes, paddle challenging primitive sections, and may include the Grand Portage, a nine-mile historic portage overland from Lake Superior to the Pigeon River.

The Boundary Waters surrounds a thousand year old trade route, which now defines the US Canadian border and was originally used by the Ojibwe people and Voyageurs.

To travel between lakes or around large rapids, the group will work as a team to carry packs and canoes over portage trails' rugged paths that can be as short as 30 yards or as long as a mile. Personal packs weigh at least 40 pounds, sometimes considerably more. Wilderness canoe expeditions in the Boundary Waters are not resupplied.

This backcountry expedition really requires participants to become a high-functioning group that is able to communicate effectively, make decisions and take on challenges. It is the perfect backdrop for analyzing teamwork and learning how to facilitate and foster it, which are key skills to successful delivery of outdoor programming and Outward Bound expeditions.


The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA) is a wilderness archipelago along the Canadian north shore of Lake Superior.  The LSNMCA is a rugged and pristine landscape of sparkling, clear water, cliffs, pebble and sand beaches, and numerous islands.  It is the largest fresh water, protected marine environment in the world and an ideal destination to hone your sea kayaking skills. 

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a one million acre, 150 mile stretch of protected wilderness along the Minnesota/Canadian border.  Unlike much Forest Service land, which is logged for timber and paper, this wilderness area is intended solely for human recreation and wildlife habitat protection, and meant to stand alone as untouched green space.  No roads, power lines, or engines are used within its borders without special permission from the Forest Service.

The landscape consists of thousands of lakes carved out of granite by glaciers nearly 10,000 years ago. These lakes sit within a boreal forest, the world’s largest biome, consisting of granite precipices, spruce and tamarack wetlands, and stands of pines and cedars anywhere from hundreds to nearly one thousand years old.  Lakes are linked by flowing waterways which frequently include waterfalls or rapids that canoeists must avoid by travelling over-land on portage trails.  Portage trails are typically less than half a mile long, although a few extend several miles around cascading rivers or unnavigable wetlands. 

While traveling in Northern Minnesota and Canada, students may see evidence of wildlife such as moose, deer, beaver, otter, bald eagles and other species native to this area.


To apply for this course click the apply button next to the course dates that work for you. The non-refundable application fee of $125 is due at the time of application. For full fee schedule and process, click here. Course tuitions listed do not include our application fee or transportation fee.