Learn how to navigate mountainous alpine terrain and desert landscapes, rock climb and ascend technical peaks up to 12,000 feet. Get experience and insight on how to facilitate and lead wilderness expeditions for future students. Earn a Wilderness First Responder certification. Explore the varied and iconic terrain of California. Most important of all, gain the expertise required to further your career as an outdoor educator. Semester courses are physically and socially demanding. These courses are reserved for motivated participants who are ready to take on all of the challenges – and rewards - associated with outdoor education.
This course is closed for the season. 2017 courses coming soon.
Outward Bound Instructor Development courses open doors in the outdoor education industry. One of the nation’s best outdoor education training programs, Instructor courses teach deep technical skills and provide in-depth knowledge of the Outward Bound learning approach. Guided by specialists in the field, get the hands-on training you’ll need to jumpstart a career in the outdoors.
The first phase of this course occurs on and off trail in Yosemite National Park and Ansel Adams Wilderness learning the skills necessary to travel in wilderness terrain. Here Instructors lay the foundation for group travel, gear selection and use, map and compass navigation, cooking and camp stove use, weather/hazard assessment, camp craft, communication skills and effective teamwork.
In addition to technical skills, Instructors teach and facilitate the interpersonal skills needed for students to function effectively as a team, accomplish goals and tackle new challenges every day. Challenges on course are designed to impel students toward taking risks, drawing upon inner resources and developing trust in one another. One such challenge might include a peak attempt. With lighter packs, participants start before the sun rises, to summit a mountain and be rewarded with 360 degree views and an incredible sense of accomplishment.
During the mountaineering section, participants build on the backpacking skills learned previously on course. In addition to teaching more technical skills, the instructors focus on honing the group's judgment and decision-making skills. The crew has the chance to attempt a technical peak during this section. Mountaineering is distinct from backpacking in that at least one peak attempt takes a steep, exposed route that requires the technical protection of ropes. Depending on season and temperatures, students learn how to use fixed lines and travel safely in the snow during this phase.
With the first phase of the expedition behind them, participants learn the skills necessary to provide first aid in a backcountry setting. These skills give individuals and the group the confidence to address health and wellbeing issues more independently for the remainder of the course.
A Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification is recognized as the standard level of expertise for backcountry first aid and is a required course (which costs up to $850 if taken privately) for leading outdoor trips. Each student must earn this certification independently. At the end of the course, the WFR instructor - not Outward Bound - decides whether students’ skills are sufficient for certification.
The following topics are covered during the course: patient assessment, basic knowledge of body systems, basic life support, equipment improvisation, environmental medicine, toxins, trauma management, evacuation and wilderness rescue.
After the WFR course, the group moves to the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. The section of the course in Joshua Tree focuses specifically on skills associated with technical rock climbing, including knots, anchors, movement over rock, top rope, belaying, use and care of harnesses and other equipment. An emphasis on climbing site assessment and management ensures that participants return with sound judgment to implement safe and challenging experiences for youth they instruct. Students have ample opportunity to actively improve their skills with various types of climbs including bouldering, face climbs, cracks and possibly a multi-pitch climb.
Following the climbing section, the group tests all acquired skills on their Final Expedition - a multi-day backpacking section in Joshua Tree. During this expedition, the crew works together to plan their route, gear, food, and logistics - essential skills for any aspiring outdoor educator. Students navigate through the unique and beautiful rock and yucca filled landscape of Joshua Tree. This section requires competence in communication, teamwork, navigation and decision-making skills.
The sea kayaking portion of the course takes place in Point Reyes National Seashore. Paddling in the Pacific Ocean, groups get an up-close view of marine mammals and many other types of wildlife. During a night paddle in the right conditions, the group may see bioluminescence make the sea glow. Skills learned include: efficient paddling, reading currents and tides, kayak rescue techniques and marine navigation.
Far removed from starry nights and alpine lakes, San Francisco is a bustling city of streetlights and people. This city exposes students to the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty – back alleys and striking bay views, sprinkled with tourist destinations that attract travelers from across the globe. Continuing ‘expedition style’, students carry their gear and travel like locals, taking the bus, walking and ferrying to their nightly abode. With the city as their classroom, students focus on developing their cultural competency and ability to work with diverse populations through discussions and service learning opportunities. As an educator, this can be just as challenging as climbing high in the mountains, but necessary as students prepare for the practicum and future work in the field of outdoor education.
Instructor courses are geared toward participants pursuing a career in education and/or outdoors. Throughout the entire expedition, instructors not only teach the ‘what’, but also the ‘why’ and ‘how’ necessary to pass on these skills to future students. There are many opportunities for participants to practice their own facilitation skills and receive feedback.
The culminating experience at the end of course is a practicum, during which participants facilitate a two-day experience for local youth in an outdoor setting. The practicum has a strong emphasis on designing and implementing curriculum, teaching basic outdoor skills, and facilitating initiatives and discussions with a group of participants from diverse backgrounds and experience levels. Through first hand teaching experience, students begin to build cultural competency as experiential educators.
On every Outward Bound course reflection is an integral part of the learning process. During the Solo phase of course, students will find reprieve from the rigors of daily travel and spend a structured period of rest and reflection near the group’s base camp. The primary focus of this time is to reflect on personal and group goals and may include individual debriefs between students and instructors. On a course of this length, there will be multiple periods of reflection integrated throughout the course, which will range in length from a few hours to a half a day. The dedicated Solo phase will happen only once, and will last up to three days. Students are provided with simple food, shelter and occasional check-ins from Instructors during this unique experience.
Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range are famous for breathtaking views of waterfalls, massive granite domes and peaceful alpine meadows. Yosemite is home to some of the world’s most treasured landmarks. Places like El Capitan, Half Dome and Glacier Point can be seen on the horizon along with dramatic alpine scenery - peaks rising from the valley to elevations above 12,000 feet. With fairly stable and beautiful weather, as summer advances, temperatures tend to become more moderate, in the 70s to 80s during the day and 30s to 50s in the evening.
Joshua Tree is famous for its high desert moonscape, where rugged mountains and desert plateaus were sculpted by wind and rain. Three distinct ecosystems come together to form this land of extremes: the dark, cold, star-filled nights against warm sand and boulder-filled days. Weather in the park is generally dry and rainfall is sparse, though unpredictable and persistent thunderstorms do sometimes occur. Temperatures can vary, averaging 50-80 degrees during the day to a cool 30 at night and potentially hitting 100 early or late in the season.
The urban portion of the course takes students on a tour of San Francisco landmarks like Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, the Mission District, Baker Beach and Market Street. Students camp in local parks and with unique partner agencies across the city. San Francisco offers rich histories, diverse cultural traditions and foods and an abundance of initiative opportunities. Though a dramatic change from the mountains and desert, students find inspiration and new perspectives in this bustling, beautiful city.
“My crew pushed ourselves further than many of us had ever pushed before, and the places that trail took us were beyond words. I remember standing on top of Mount Goddard, the highest point in the Sierra and Sequoia Kings National Forests, on the 40th day of my course. Not only was I surrounded by one of the most amazing views of my life, but I was standing among six inspiring human beings who had embarked on this journey with me and had quickly become my family. Six people who challenged me to learn and grow, who inspired me to keep going through the hardest of the challenges, and who taught me what it means to be compassionate.”
- Jenna Westendorf
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