By Mikaela Dalton
Do you know a high school student who loves to be outside? Who wants to master their outdoors skills, and learn what it means to be a leader?
WISE is excited to announce a new program for high school students in the Copper River Valley; meet the Outdoors and Wilderness Leadership Skills program, OWLS! We are in the process of designing the OWLS program and curriculum for teens who want to learn technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills that will prepare them for a future in a variety of outdoors jobs and as future leaders.
Students will master technical skills such as orienteering, knot tying, backcountry cooking and nutrition, interpersonal skills like conflict resolution, group management, and risk management, and develop their own leadership style among many more skills.
The OWLS will program start early in the summer with a multi-day backpacking trip. Students will get to know one another and the WISE staff while getting their hands on equipment and learning critical backcountry skills. We’ll continue regular meetings throughout the summer, each one with a new skill to learn and practice those we learned before.
Towards the middle of the summer, students will join WISE community programs as assistants and step into leadership roles at each stage; from packing and preparing gear and food, to managing groups on trail, to caring for and evaluating the condition of gear and supplies after the programs to give them an insight into what it takes to lead wilderness adventures.
The program will culminate with another multi-day expedition completely designed, prepared, and run by the OWLS students. They will choose what type of adventure they want to do, prepare all the gear, create a menu and portion out the food, and create and follow their own itinerary. WISE staff will be participants on the final expedition, there only to assist if need be. By the end of the summer, our students will be well prepared to handle leading on their own, creating a powerful team of local teen leaders.
OWLS will be separate from the Copper River Stewardship program, which will also happen this summer as usual. Where Stewardship program focuses on science and academics while being outdoors, OWLS will focus on surviving and thriving in the wilderness and learning what it takes to be a leader in a backcountry setting. The leadership practices learned outdoors can be used in any situation, not just the backcountry. For those ambitious high school students who are interested, we will allow qualified and driven students to participate in both programs.
This program is still in the preliminary stages of planning and obtaining funding, but this spring we will start looking for interested teens. We are working currently with the Copper River School District so that students could earn a half-credit for participating and completely the necessary work. We look forward to exploring with you!
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.