What’s up with the Rec | Pro Split?

Truth be told, it’s been a long time coming.  Yep you guessed it – avalanche education in the United States has just made a major shift.  As an educator that values consistency in teaching and outcomes for students – I’d say the avalanche education Rec | Pro split is for the better. Thanks impart to a partnership between the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and the leading avalanche education providers throughout the nation including the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), American Avalanche Institute (AAI), and the National Avalanche School the avalanche education industry will be moving towards more continuity (similar to our Canadian neighbors).

What actually is the Rec | Pro Split, and why is it necessary?

The former avalanche education progression was quite cumbersome, which included the Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 progression for all users despite individualized needs.  Blending the recreation user with the professional is challenging for both the educator and student alike due to the varying needs related to course content and student outcomes.   Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear that these two “tracks” will now be separated.  Avalanche education providers, like SOLE’s AIARE avalanche education program, will now offer Rec track avalanche education course offerings, which are required to progress to the Pro track whereas Pro track offerings will be offered by the over-arching providers like AIARE, AAI, etc (see the image below for more information).

With these shifts, we look forward to more positive outcomes for participants that take our AIARE courses this season and have needed the Pro | Rec split in the industry for some time.  In addition, to the advantages of separating the two avalanche education user-types, providers and the governing body (AAA) have come together to create more consistency across the industry, akin to what has occurred with wilderness medicine providers and the Wilderness Medical Society.  The results will surely be impactful for all.  Instead of recreational users getting bogged down in the microscopic details of snow crystallography they will now be able to focus on the concepts that really matter at that specific level.  Conversely, avalanche professionals (forecasters, ski guides, etc) will now have the opportunity to “geek out” when needed and have a common interest while doing so!

Some take home points…

  • What is the difference between AAA and AIARE, and how does SOLE fit in the mix?  In simple terms, AAA develops the guidelines for avalanche education providers in the United States.  AIARE is an approved avalanche education provider and takes the guidelines developed by AAA and has developed rigorous, standardized training and curriculum for both pro courses and rec courses which is evidence-based.   This is exactly why SOLE chose the AIARE avalanche education program.  SOLE’s AIARE Field Instructors are avalanche education professionals and besides teaching AIARE courses for SOLE in the winter often work ski guiding, avalanche forecasting, or ski patrolling.  SOLE is an AIARE approved avalanche education provider.
  • Which track is for me, Rec or Pro?  Well, it depends.  Recreational avalanche education is for those who want to make sound decisions in the backcountry.  For example, developing essential skills like determining if you should ski the slope or not is something that you would explore in the Rec track.  On the other hand, the Pro track is for those who would like to pursue or those who are actively working in a professional setting.  Examples include, but not limited to, mitigation work, avalanche forecasting, ski guiding, etc.  It is important to note,  Rec coursework is required to progress to Pro Course offerings.  Also, Pro courses are longer in duration and include a formal evaluation as part of the course.
  • Where should I begin my avalanche education?  As old adage, “why fix something if it ain’t broken” rings true. A Rec Level 1 Course is a great starting point, as well as, the BRAND SPANKING NEW one-day Avalanche Rescue course.  Afterwards, if you would like to progress you will need to demonstrate experience in the avalanche field.  Most avalanche education providers recommend a solid year further developing your skills after taking your Level 1, which will allow you to transition to the Rec Level 2 or Pro 1 course depending on specific needs and skills.  The Avalanche Rescue course is a pre-requisite for the Rec Level 2 or Pro 1.
  • If I already have my Level 2, can I just transition to the Pro track? Not so fast.  You will need to take what is called a Bridge Course with an accompanying exam to achieve Pro 1 Certification. This Bridge Course will evaluate your skills from the previous Level 2 training. It is important to note, this opportunity will be offered briefly, and after the initial two years of the new progression, someone with an old Level 2 will need to take and complete a Pro 1 course to pursue the Pro track – so now’s the time to get on it!

SOLE will continue to offer the full breadth of Rec courses for the 2017 – 2018 season, including the brand new Avalanche Rescue course, women’s specific, youth-specific, and adult co-ed Rec Level 1 course offerings!  So stay tuned-in and refresh often on our website and social media sites.  For more information on these courses and to register for any of our avalanche education programs click here.

Hope to see you on the snow,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

 

Why should you ‘Plan Ahead & Prepare’

The backcountry is as unpredictable as it gets.  Like other remote regions throughout the United States, living and traveling in the backcountry of the Inland Northwest often results in interacting with the dynamic nature of the land we are traveling within.  These factors are delivered from experiencing unpredictable weather patterns, possible wildlife encounters, forging swift cold rivers, traversing in avalanche terrain, navigating wildfires, missing rock fall, and so many other factors – all of which are simply out of our control.  All we can do, is use the skills we have developed and our best judgment to not be irresponsible or complacent.  The beauty in that which we might fear are the lifelong lessons that these moments create.  In fact, it’s why we go out there to RE-create, and furthermore, it’s why SOLE uses these environs as our preferred classroom setting.   It is in these novel educational settings SOLE participants are provided real challenges, with real consequences and as a result are able to truly develop personal character and grit, while simultaneously providing opportunity for those we serve to master outdoor skill and leadership competencies.

Because of the stated unknowns, as our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Skills and Ethics often say, it’s best to Plan Ahead and Prepare for what may arise.  Many outdoor enthusiast do not adequately prepare before venturing out. Best case scenario, they become a case study for us to consider to not repeat the same mistakes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always end well.

Why should we Plan Ahead and Prepare?

Wildfires are unpredictable and may require signifcant re-routing. Photo credit: Inciweb

Let’s investigate further based on a recent article from Rich Landers of The Spokesman-Review that underscores the “why”and serves as an excellent case study.  Click here to read the article for a personal account of being unprepared in the backcountry.

As we can see, more than 100 individuals were trapped, uprepared in what could have been a potential deadly situation.  As luck would have it, there was someone that did have military training, cell phone coverage, and a smart phone application all of which assisted in getting the group out safely. What would have occured had the technology failed and/or they not had the leadership to assist them?  Obviously, the outcomes would have been much more chatostrophic.  So that is why, when dealing with any backcountry environment we need to Plan Ahead and Prepare, so we can thrive, not just survive.

 

How to ‘thrive’ not just survive…

First, let’s take a look at the 4 considerations that are critical to any backcountry user.

  1. Create and use a Travel Plan.
  2. Understand what to do when lost.
  3. Utilize an effective layering system.
  4. Pack the 13 Essential

Knowing how to use a topo map and compass is essential for any backcountry user – especially when technology fails.

Simply put, a Travel Plan IS your first line of defense.  It let’s folks know where you are going, and how long you will be there, and when you will return.  When heading out to the backcountry it’s always a good idea to leave a plan of your trip with friends or families.

Good info to include in the Travel Plan:

  1. Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) – when you are leaving.
  2. Destination – include trail numbers, road access, etc.
  3. Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) – when you are returning back.
  4. Copy of Route – include maps as appropriate.

What should I pack?  

Along with the 13 essentials (see below), but also appropriate clothing and gear to deal with inclement weather should the need arise. Layering systems are the norm for backcountry travellers consisting of largely polypropylene and wool clothing fabrics as the go-to. Yes, even though it’s hot during the day and it’s summer you can STILL get hypothermic.  An effective layering system can provide effective thermo-regulation allowing the backcountry traveler to stay cool and warm when necessary. It is important to note, cotton is not a great fabric for when the mercury begins to dip and will only serve to strip heat away from your body once wet promoting heat-loss and possibly leading to hypothermia. We will explore heat-loss and how to regulate it effectively in the coming submissions. A good consideration for most days is while it may be hot most summer days, when traveling in the mountains it can go from hot to cold and wet rather quickly.

An effective layering system is a must any time of the year in the backcountry to deal with the cure balls that good ‘ole Mother Nature delivers. Photo Credit: outdoorgearlab.com

Understanding the Layering System…

So, with not know exactly what the weather is going to do, a simple clothing/layering system for your upper and lower body for backcountry excursions throughout the year in mountainous regions should include:

  1. Sun/bug protection (top/bottom). Convertible zip-off pants are great. They provide adequate sun/bug protection and can be zipped off to keep cool when needed. Also, long sleeve button up sun shirts are great for the same reason. Often, some models are vented to be more comfortable in hot weather while also provide adequate coverage. It is also a great idea to consider a sun hat (baseball style or wide-brimmed – the later has better protection), sunglasses with a retaining strap, and most certainly sun block! Like inclement weather, sun itself is a real environmental threat so when venturing out into the backcountry we want to prepare accordingly.
  2. A wicking layer (top/bottom). Lightweight polypropylene is ideal. It’s designed to wick the moisture directly from your skin to the outer layers and dries quickly when wet.
  3. Insulating layer (top). A common mid-weight fleece works well. This layer will serve to trap air and keep you warm when needed. You can find them at most gear shops and even thrift stores. Wool will also work well, which can be found at Army Surplus stores.  You say it’s hot.  What happens when you have to spend the night, and the temps drop.  Yep, it can even snow in the summer in the lower 48.
  4. A waterproof shell (top/bottom). “Rubberized” coated nylon works well when not active; they trap heat when moving versus transferring heat from the body – causing you to sweat. Again, the goal of a layering system is to effectively trap and move heat when necessary. Therefore, we recommend a waterproof-breathable shell layer. Also, it is important to note, there are other options out there on the market that work well besides Gore-Tex, which are far more affordable so we recommend shopping around.
  5. A wool or fleece hat. While it’s a myth that you body loses most of your heat through your head you can transfer a fair amount of heat there if not covered so we recommend throwing one in your pack.

A simple day backpack can provide ample room for all the gear that you will need when things go from bad to worse.

13 Essentials…

The following 13 items should be included in your pack at all times in case of an emergency or if you are unexpectedly caught out overnight.  You may not use all of the essentials on every trip, but they could keep you alive in an emergency.

  1. Topo Map – Let’s face it technology like iPhones and GPS’s are great, but they fail. A topographical map is fail proof method to navigate the backcountry.  Learn how to use the map efficiently or it will add needless weight. Place it in a plastic zip lock bag and carry a pencil to triangulate.
  2. Compass – Get a reliable compass from a name brand like Silva.  Make sure it has  a straight edge.  Know how to use your compass or it is useless weight.
  3. Flashlight – Headlamps are great, but small bright flashlights are sufficient. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your light before you leave and pack enough extra batteries to last your trip.  Many people carry an extra bulb as well.
  4. Knife – Pocket knife, sharpened to your liking.  Multi-tools are great, as are knives with two good blades.
  5. Lighter / Matches – Wooden, strike anywhere matches, waterproofed in a good waterproof container are great.  Lighters can fail if not kept dry.
  6. Fire Starter – Two 3 to 5 inch hard wax candles work well.  In the Inland Northwest we have the great fortune of having birch bark which works great.
  7. Extra Clothing – Bring an extra set of clothing suited to the worst possible conditions you could possibly encounter for the area and time you are visiting.  Including a beanie is a great idea!
  8. Extra Food – High energy foods, such as Power Bars or even a Snicker bar are great.
  9. Water – One liter minimum, and way to treat water is a great idea.
  10. First Aid Kit – There are many good first aid kits available commercially, or you could build one yourself.  Always consider carrying it in a waterproof container.
  11. Sun Protection (sunblock / sunglasses) – Dark lenses with 100% UVA and UVB protection, or nearly so. Zinc oxide or sun block with SPF 15 or higher is preferred.  Waterproof or “sweat proof” sun block recommended.  Don’t forget a sunhat and long sleeve shirts in sunny climates and/or summer seasons.
  12. Emergency Shelter – A small plastic tarp or two large plastic contractor bags will keep the wind and rain off ofyou.
  13. Signal Devices – Many hikers carry a whistle and a mirror.  Discarded CD disks can even make an adequate signaling mirror.  When in survival situation getting found often relies on using other methods beside your voice.

When your lost do the right thing – STOP.

You’re lost, now what?  STOP.

S – top – When you’re lost there is nothing worst that continuing down a route that you “think” may pan out.  It most situations (non-threatening) staying in one location can be best so rescuers can locate you sooner.

T – hink – When you’re in your “reptile brain” it’s pretty easy to go to “fight or flight”.  It’s important to not flip your lid, and stay in your pre-frontal cortex, so you can rationally and logically consider your options at present, and what will be needed to thrive down the road.

O – bserve – Once you are grounded, consider your options.  Do you have enough available resources around you to sustain you and your party, and what can be used?  Are there any actual threats to life or limb which require your immediate attention? What is the best method to signal for rescue?

P – lan – Once you have weighed your options make the most sound plan possible.  Consider all the perceived and actual risks that could result in decisions presented.  When time is available provide ample opportunity to shoot holes in your plan, and re-work to come up with the best plan possible solution that will allow you to thrive until the Calvary arrives.

Backcountry “know-how” goes beyond just having the right gear. You should know how to use it, when, coupled with the right leadership skills. Photo Credit: Seth Quigg

SOLE teaches outdoor living and travel skills such as the ones mentioned here during much of its day-based and expedition-based backcountry programs – in addition we offer stand-alone outdoor skill workshops. For more information on SOLE’s programs and/or to register for an upcoming SOLE Experience go to www.soleexperiences.org or contact us at info@soleexperiences.org or 928.351.SOLE.

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

 

A summer of exploring, learning and develop a sense of belonging…

Ten sets of eyes are peeking from behind the trees, and little giggles burst out here and there. We are playing “Camouflage”, which is one of the favorite games for the eleven children in Session III of SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience SM summer camp program. Children ages four through ten are hiding in the forest, looking at the game leader, who is trying to spot them.

“I see you, Rhys!” says Sophia, our current leader. Her brother, a bold four-year-old, comes out smiling from behind his favorite hiding spot.

“What type of tree were you just hiding behind, Rhys?”  Rhys smiles and wiggles and tells me that it’s a western red cedar.  I then ask him, “how do you know that?”.

“Because of the bark, and the way the branches bend!” We high-five, and Rhys whispers to his sister that he can see somebody that she didn’t find yet.

The Junior Naturalist Experience SM Program is a 3 to 5 day place-based experiential education program, designed for children between the ages of four to ten to unplug and reconnect outdoors via exploring and learning in their local natural surroundings. Despite the noted age difference you might say – there’s a method behind the madness.  First, Nature Detectives (ages four to six) attend for the first three days, and Nature Explorers (ages seven to ten) come for full five days.  Secondly, I noticed how beautifully intentional how committed the older children were to their roles as leaders and responded towards their younger peers. When given the opportunity to guide, model, and mentor the younger children Nature Explorers blew me away at every turn.  This also, allowed me to come to appreciate the intentionality of SOLE’s program design.

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“We are very grateful for your program, my son LOVED IT and just couldn’t stop talking about what he was doing each day!”  

~ Junior Naturalist Experience Parent, 2017

The purposeful program structure to provide leadership opportunities for youth in the Junior Naturalist Experience SM Program, and all of SOLE’s programs, is just one example of the intentionality of SOLE’s program design that I have come to appreciate.  The other is the purposeful curricula that they use in the field.

Place-based, experiential education lessons are also blended with outdoor free-play. The children aren’t just hearing about their world they are also seeing, feeling and even smelling the wonders of their natural world while forming long-lasting connections between natural science and positive experiences that they actual choose and create for themeselves with peers.  It is through these teachable moments, that allows youngsters to develop and sustain meaningful relationships and lead their own learning while simutaneously satisfying their individual curiosity, allowing each Junior Naturalists SM to have more than just fun in the forest.

That said, having fun is certainly at the heart of the Junior Naturalist Experience SM program. Through structured games and outdoor free play, students are gaining confidence in themselves, developing social and emotional skills, and getting comfortable spending time the natural world. Free play provides opportunities for children to explore and enjoy their environment in their own personal way; fort building is often very popular when providing opportunity for outdoor free-play.

Speaking of which, we have hiked down a favorite resting spot, and a young boy named James calls to his friends, “Hey everyone! Come see my fort!”

Little heads pop up across the forest floor.

“How many people do you think can fit inside?” calls James.

Time to find out! I help the children over one by one, until eleven sets of bright eyes are peeking out at me.

As a summer Field Instructor, I had a wonderful time exploring North Idaho with all of the Nature Explorers and Nature Detectives during SOLE’s 2017 summer season. As an educator, the opportunity to lead creative, place-based experiential education lessons at both Round Lake State Park and the University of Idaho Extension campus was tremendously rewarding.

In closing, I sincerely appreciate SOLE’s dedication to providing quality experiential education pograms, which was evident every step of the way, from the field to the office.  In the future, I hope to see the relationship between SOLE and the Sandpoint community grow ever more cohesive; who knows maybe the Junior Naturalists that I got to explore and play with this summer will go on to enjoy SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM program and even the expedition-based summer programs SOLE offers for teens which could even lead to these young adventurers to creating and leading their own programs for SOLE in the future!

We the Leaders…

Students from a great little alternative high school in rural north Idaho known as Lake Pend Oreille High School embarked on a 5-day SOLE GAP Experience, where they explored and learned as indigenous people and infamous explorers like David Thompson did so many years ago.  Students were exposed to a dynamic intedisciplinary curriculum which focused on developing leadership as a member of a backcountry expedition; developing grit and reslience through the lens of those who traveled before us; and making academic connections through studying river literature written by the likes of Edward Abbey and others.  SOLE partners with schools and programs to design and facilitate experiential education lessons for these transfromational SOLE Experiences SM.  As a part of this program expansion we have decided to launch a brand new Blog Catagory – Adventure Learning – which will showcase students’ work utilizing Photo Voice and other multi-media tools to capture and transfer their learning from the field back into the classroom or urban context.  So sit back with a cup of your favorite coffee (we recommend Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters) and enjoy our student’s first post, We the Leaders… a blog post which captures the perspective of student leadership teams.

Down the River with Lake Pend Oreille High School…

Day 1 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

Our first day began well, with us rousing everyone from their tents early, and getting everyone’s tents and equipment packed up and ready to go, drybags prepped and day bags packed. With little issues in our group, we set out with determination and adventure on our minds. When we got to the rafting company’s compound, we had no issues at all in directing everyone to the bus, and getting underway (other than a little complaining from some sleepy passengers). The rest of the day flowed smoothly, relatively speaking, considering how bumpy and clunky the road to the river itself was. The real challenges to our leadership positions began when we disembarked from the bus, and were confronted with some difficult decisions regarding placement of our group-mates in the rafts and I-Ks, but by gathering everyone together, and talking through it, we were able to come to a compromise, and everyone left that rocky gravel-bar happy with where they were.

Photo Description: Students from LPOHS assist in “rigging out” on the North Fork of the Flathead River, MT.

As far as the actual rafting itself went, not a single notable incident occurred; kayakers were able to switch when they needed to, rafters were able to be in the boats that they were most comfortable in, and by the time we disembarked, everyone was ready for camp. In our struggles to keep everyone on task and active in setting up their tents and camp, Calista and I were able to maintain some semblance of order, but we did run into a few problems; sun-scorched legs, tired teenagers, and miscommunication between ourselves and the rafting company set a few hiccups into motion, but not so much that we weren’t able to keep the night positive and supportive. Overall, the day went well, and through giving attention to both individuals and the group as a whole, we made it a positive learning [experience] and base point from which to continue the entire adventure.

What I am as a Leader…

Zach’s Perspective:

Leaders have many responsibilities, chief among them being the productivity and overall mood of the team they are leading. On this rafting trip, Calista and I were chosen to uphold this responsibility for the first day. Our day was chosen as the one that we would be embarking upon the river itself, so our particular roles were of paramount importance, in both setting the tone for the future leaders of the day, and establishing a chain of command and communication structure between the adult group coordinators and the students. Our leadership style was effective, as performed by individualized attention to issues, indirect intervention to stop issues, and communicating with the group coordinators.

In using personalized attention to individual students, as their issues arose, we were able to maintain a healthy overall group mood, and we were able to address problems before they arose, and we were able to keep the individuals of our group satisfied with the leadership, an important aspect of group efficiency and productivity. An example of this can be found towards the end of the day, when we had a badly-burned group member that needed extra attention and care, and we were able to make that happen by getting him what he needed, and getting him back into the group to participate the same night.

Indirect intervention was another method that I personally used to help the group, by using delegation to create a feeling of self-improvement in the group, such as when I asked people to make tough decisions on their own, like sitting next to someone they didn’t particularly like, and letting them decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to participate in the group. Using these methods was healthy for both individuals, and the group, as by letting people make their own decisions, they can be more confident and lead themselves towards a better day.

The most important aspect of leadership with the way our team did things was the communication between the adults and the group. Through constant checking in and maintaining a clear set of instructions and voiced opinions and commands, we were able to make sure that everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and gave them the means and capabilities of fulfilling those responsibilities.

Calista’s Perspective:

The day I was leader wasn’t really productive on my part. First Zach and I cleaned the our first camp site at the park then we left for our trip. After our 2 hour ride to the spot to go rafting I made sure that everyone had sunscreen on before we went rafting. I tried to make sure everyone went to the raft they were supposed to be at but they weren’t listening to me very well. The whole day I didn’t lead very well because I didn’t know what to do. The group said I should’ve used my voice which is true. As a leader you need to do a lot for the group in order for everyone to stay on track. Leaders are supposed to be there for people and try to find a way

Day 2 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

The leadership roles in outdoors can be very different than in an indoor space, this trip has taught both of us how to learn the difference but apply them both directly in the right spaces at the right times. Even though me and my partner have both leadership styles, combining them helps with our accomplishments to be leaders of the day. We were leaders of the day, on the second day.  We worked together as a team, and friends which helps put trust, and respect to everyone who is around us.

Photo Description: To cement learning targets students reflected and journaled daily.

The very first day we weren’t leaders, two other people were but they didn’t communicate too well. They were an [organized and efficient] group when they did talk to each other about what was going on but when they didn’t it was a little messy. We learned from the mistake, not that they did anything wrong, but that it they would have worked a little better with that advice so we used that to our advantage for our next day. They spent the rest of the night when we had our group circle talking about how our day went and what could have been better. They talked about how Calista should use her voice more often, and how Zach needs to try and help Calista do that.

The second day, we were leaders. We woke up, a little earlier than usual so we could talk to the teachers and group guides about how the day was going to go. We wrote down what everyone was hoping to get, if it was kayaks, or if it was sitting arrangements on the rafts. Garrett helped anyone who was having problems with whatever it may be, when we were writing everything down. Even though we didn’t communicate the whole time, starting out the day communicating helped a lot and we didn’t need to take a break to talk to each other about what the plan was every five minutes. When we had short breaks when we stopped for a snack or lunch to hydrate and eat so we can stay healthy on the river.

The third day, others were leaders of the day and we weren’t anymore. Even though we weren’t the leaders of the day we still helped out our part and more, we tried help to organize the new leaders of the day to help them understand what they’re doing. They weren’t exact “friends or companions” but they did do well trying to be together and get trust built between them and the other students. They did an exceptional job, we thought because they worked past their differences and kept strong for the whole day.

The fourth day, we still took handle over helping the new leaders of the day because we felt as if we did an okay job the last day. We are both put in the “style” of leadership of Spontaneous Motivators. So we want to help the new leaders of the day get a hang of it, and help be the best leaders they can be. Through the whole time, we guided more than we planned too.

Even though we were leaders of the day only on one day, we helped others more and assisted them to do what the teachers and guides wanted. We both learned many new leadership skills, and even though [our day] was only one, we learned that leadership skills apply in everyday life no matter where the situation is.

Photo Description: As we stand/sit in our circle learning about the background of the river we are rafting. We used teamwork to focus, and stay on task while this was being taught.

What I am as a Leader…

Kendra’s Perspective:

Spontaneous Motivator was my leadership “style”, which means I use my voice and I usually motivate people to try and get things done. My leadership “day” with Garrett went very well. We worked well together and had trust with each other, teachers, and the raft guides. Even though Garrett and I have the same style of leadership, we did exceptionally well as a team to the other students around us. While he was taking care of one thing, I would hop onto whatever else was needed. If we’d talk about something that involved our fellow students we’d take into consideration of their feelings and wants and help to try and get what was most appropriate for them. We would keep in mind that even though our students have “wants” we also needed to do what’s best for our students and teachers.

“I absolutely loved this trip, and wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I am very glad I have put effort into going, and starting leadership. I am going to use this in my next school year in my classrooms when people aren’t cooperating with teachers, or other students and might be struggling to do their work. I am excited to bring the stragedy of leadership into my school, and own household.” ~ Kendra

Garrett’s Perspective:

My [Leader of the Day] experience went fantastic, when I had a suggestion, people would willingly listen to me and when we made adjustments to the raft set up everyone understood and no one complained. At lunch we switched out to other students and then we put two different students in a raft and everyone was willing to make the switch. Kendra was the only one who had everyone arranged and figured out. If she wasn’t one of the leaders of the day I wouldn’t have been as great of a leader.

Photo Caption: Sitting at our daily circle talking to each other about how our day went and how we could improve the next day.

I also figured out that I am a Spontaneous Motivator, they are often like light bulbs. “Groups need this function to sparkle, create, prod, stir the pot, and impassion. A group without this style may be functional, but somewhat lackluster. When mature people with this style choose to be detached and monitor their emotional involvement, this is highly effective. If too much of this style is present in a leader, a group can be overly reactive or so impassioned about their ideals that they lose touch with other realities. Interestingly, many charismatic leaders and cult leaders come from this quadrant.” (NOLS, 2009).  I could agree with this in many ways, I can apply these characteristics to my leadership style, and I can put this into my school year this upcoming year, because our school needs many styles of leadership and I will fill one as a Spontaneous Motivator.  I can motivate by using my positive influence and to help motivate others by doing it first and saying I could  use some help.

Day 3 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

On the day that we were meant to lead, Thursday July 13th, we weren’t quite prepared mentally so it could’ve been a better day. With a few minor seating issue the day set off with a rocky start, but slowly started to get better as we got used to being leaders. Everyone was listening to what we had to say until pull out at lunch.There were a few minor mishaps with the person’s arrangements but they were quickly resolved. Throughout the day the leaders were mostly unneeded, however we did what we could. Our ideas as different types of leaders was somewhat of a challenge, however we gritted it out and found a way to collaborate efficiently and effectively.

Students had ample time to reflect and learn while floating down the North Fork of the Flathead.

The day began rather slowly. Mason woke up early as usual and had his usual hot chocolate. By the time the others had to be woken up everyone began waking up. After the breakfast of eggs the assigning of rafts had some troubles. This wasn’t the best start to the day but there wasn’t much we could do. Even so we continued trying to make the best of the day. During our lunch break we had the same problem as this morning with persons arrangements, mostly in the I.K.’s(Inflatable Kayaks) which we resolved much faster due to the knowledge from the same mishaps that  morning. Throughout the day we each contributed a small amount to all others. When we finally made camp our leaderships were needed a small amount more. Despite the small rough spots in the day we endured enough to see it through as leaders.

“Overall the experience is something indescribable, and I would recommend to up and coming students who want a memory making experience.  The rafting trip was an overall happy time to bond and form unbreakable teamwork and cooperation amongst friends and teachers.” ~ Mason

What I am as a Leader…

Arron’s Perspective:

Being Leader of the Day on the rafting trip at Glacier National Park was an interesting experience. I myself am not really a natural loud leader. I prefer to lead from a sideline area using intelligence to plan what to do before acting out what I’m going to do. Even after all my planning I usually let someone else enact my vision, someone with a louder more social perspective. On this trip two classmates and myself were assigned to lead one of the days in this week long trip. I had been collaborating with my two teammates the night before our day in hopes to have at least a partial plan going into our day. Liam and I had were setting up our vision when it came to the inflatable kayaks as per the fact that we had few and everyone want a spot on one. When it came to our day I must admit I wasn’t being any sort of leader I got up late didn’t do my duty of cooking. Overall it was a slow start. Then we were getting on the rafts and there was some confusion because liam and I had told people different things I said Ed was in my boat and liam said his, now we eventually figured this out and continued the day. However another bump was hit in the day after lunch while figuring out who gets the kayak people were angry cause Liam had told three separate people they could use the kayak even though there was only one spot, but after a short time we had decided on a person that got to ride less than the others to ride. We did an activity to show what type of leader we were I got Relationship Master which means your basicly a kind person leading as a friend almost which I disagree with because I believe I am an Analyst Architect which mean you think before you do, gather facts plan and use intellect to lead, which several times in the day I showed these qualities.  I plan to take this and [apply] it to my school by trying to [be] fair and help others think logicaly to better our school.

Mason’s Perspective:

I usually refrain from taking a leadership position due to the amount of possible failures and judgements upon my choices, however when I am thrust into a such position I adapt and take complete control. I don’t like doing it, but sometimes it must be done. In a situation like the one I had with multiple other leaders I didn’t need to, so I chose to lead by example as is my direct alternative. I am generalised into the group of analytical architect. This means that I am more prone to think on decisions and analyze all possible outcomes and repercussions, but this isn’t exactly what I did. I tried to be more active and physical to compensate for the downsides of the other leaders who were more verbally dominant as leaders, whom i collaborated my thoughts with. I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly the leader I wanted to be nor was I the one that everyone needed, but I guess it cannot be undone. My hope is that I can apply the techniques I learned from the other leaders in other areas in the future such as school and work. For example I may need to solve an ongoing problem. My ability to analyze and think about a situation would lead me to have an advanced outlook upon the possibilities of each move I make to resolve the issue.

Photo Description: Students reflect on the river life by reading, Down the River by Edward Abbey.

Liam’s Perspective:

My experience was surreal. A lot of people had their mindset on how they thought about each other. However it was through this trip that everyone has a different opinion about each other. With this being a leader with this new knowledge about each other it was easy to help accommodate with each other’s personality. My Noze Doze Leader style is Spontaneous Motivator. Which is, I’m often trying to voice my ideas and are very entitled to them and not open to confrontations.  With all these leadership styles not only did we have to lead the other students, but we had to lead each other.  And, with that it took real responsibility from everyone when it was their time to be [Leader of the Day], so everyone was determined and excited.

Day 4 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

Dusty, Joel and Chris were very good leaders on Friday, the last day of the trip. It was probably one of the most laid back days for being a Leader’s of the Day. We thought that for more than just one reason, not only was it a short day but it also got to experience how other leaders of the day handled every one else so we were kind of in the loop on how to help and lead everyone. It also helped that everyone knew how it felt to not be heard so they all were listening pretty well and were cool about it.  It was a long week and we saw many things on [and off] the water like when everyone was a leader kept a special eye out for the other students. So in all we got to experience something with great people.

Photo Description: During this SOLE Experience students made lasting memories and formed newed friendships along the river.

What I am as a Leader…

Chris’s Perspective:

I am a very good leader because I am part of the Architects & Analysts  group from the No-Doze Leadership Style graph. I think it’s true because I like information and speak my opinions. Like when as a leader I seem to be the one who works out the plans [and then] inform everyone.  

Joel’s Perspective:

I found out that I was Relationship Master which shocked everyone but I believe that it actually suits me because in a group situation I try not to be myself because I don’t think people will respect me or will take advantage of that. But an example would be when Dennison tried to slide on a log and rolled his kayak, and I asked him immediately if he was ok.  In the school setting it will be helpful when dealing with whether or not a teacher needs space, so I can help not set myself up for failure.

Dusty’s Perspective:

During the No-Doze class I found that I am a Spontaneous Motivator which means My leadership tends toward motivating and energizing others; however, I have a tendency to become very set in my ways, not wanting others to alter my plans. That said, working with Joel and Christian, I didn’t encounter these issues. For example when one of us had an idea we all discussed it  as a team before we talked to everyone. Like when we unloaded the raft we told everyone as a group to help unload and organize everything and it got done correctly and efficiently. At school this leadership style will help me to motivate people to do there work and not get in trouble which is helpful coming from a peer that struggles in the same way.

Photo Description: No Doze in action! Students participate in an experiential lesson to learn Situational Leadership Theory.

Photo Description: The 4 Quadrants in the No Doze Leadership Lesson.

 

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives national recognition!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sandpoint, Idaho — SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives national recognition.

Since 2013, Sandpoint-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) has immersed over 1,700 local area youth in their local wild landscapes to explore and learn.  SOLE has quickly become a noteworthy regional resource through providing intentional and transformational experiential education programs for underserved youth in rural communities in north Idaho and beyond.

Recognition for SOLE’s contribution to rural communities throughout the Inland Northwest went to new heights this past winter during the 12th Annual Backcountry Film Festival where SOLE’s film SnowSchool: Exploring Our Winter Wildlands  was listed and shown as a finalist in this annual international film at over 100 showings world wide!  Highlighting, SOLE’s novel and transfromatioanl approach to SnowSchool, the nation’s largest on-snow snow science and winter ecology program.  This film showcases not only the attributes of SOLE, and their novel interdisciplinary place-based experiential education programs, but also the proven partnerships that support our mission.  Noted partners include, the Winter Wildlands Alliance National SnowSchool Program, Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC), Lake Pend Oreille School District, Coeur d’Alene School District, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Silver Mountain, Panhandle Alliance for Education, Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Equinox Foundation.

In May 2017, recognition for SOLE went a step further when Boise-based, Winter Wildlands Alliance acknowledged SOLE as a National Flagship SnowSchool Site.  Out of the 60 SnowSchool sites nationally, which serve over 32,000 youth annually, only two sites have received this noteworthy accolade.  Recognition was based on continued program development, staff development and training, as well as, SOLE’s novel place-based experiential education and project-based learning curricula.  

See SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program in action in the film highlighted in the 2016-2017 Backcountry Film Festival in the link below:

For more information on SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience view the link below:

https://www.soleexperiences.org/fieldwork-experiences/snowschool-experiences/

For more info:

Dennison Webb, MA
Founder | Executive Director
928.351.SOLE(7653) | dennison.webb@soleexperiences.org

Why is outdoor free play important for your child?

Since inception SOLE has facilitated programs which highlights outdoor free play for youth. From exploring a wetland with peers during our Stewardship Experience program, or just getting ‘down and dirty’  building a fort in our Junior Naturalist Experience summer programs, youth are constantly immersed in natural learning environments where they are able to freely explore their local wildlands while also learning about the natural systems which exist.  

When at SOLE outdoor free play provides the ideal ‘habitat’ to develop the whole child.

Even with our intentionally-designed curricula as the framework, youth are consistently provided unstructured outdoor play, or as it is commonly known free play, during most SOLE Experiences SM which starts in our programs for youth 4 years of age.  While our organization is an obvious proponent for purposeful experiential and outdoor education curricula, we also actively support personal and group exploration outdoors.  At SOLE, free play can be considered as moments where youth naturally engage with themselves and their peers without direct facilitation.  It is in these moments when youth really heighten their emotional, social, physical and mental well being.

Getting ‘down & dirty’ during a Junior Naturalist Experience at SOLE!

Free play is capable of developing the executive control center of our brains at an early age.  In fact, it’s been shown to have a negative impact on children’s brain development when they are removed from this critical learning environment.  As we dig into it bit further, we can naturally see how developing higher order skills like critical-thinking and problem solving can occur without direct facilitation from simple endeavors like building a fort with a friend. It’s not to say that a deeper level of comprehension of lesson objectives cannot be attained through effective facilitation – it can. However, there is still much to be said for those opportunities where individuals take ownership of their learning process and freely explore the moments, especially those in nature. And the benefits do not stop there.1

When exploring what’s ‘out there’ we engage our physical self into wild landscapes.

Free play promotes physical well-being. Current research shows the decline in outdoor and physical activity for youth, including free play opportunities. There is also a growing body of evidence, which shows the correlation between the decrease in physical outdoor activity and childhood obesity. Also, there are current studies that show that children are most physically active when provided these very opportunities.2

Another benefit is supporting positive attention. In fact, when children are provided the opportunity to immerse themselves in outdoor free play, they are often more attentive and respectful when re-entering a more structure learning setting.

Also, free play provides the opportunity for actual social engagement and character development. Establishing and maintaining friendships is a tremendous outcome of free play. By providing opportunity for children to freely engage their peers is naturally how we learn to relate – an essential life skill.  Children are also learning from their failures, and mistakes allowing them to develop the 7 C’s of Resilience a cornerstone of most SOLE programs.  These essential life skills have also been directly linked to future positive outcomes, including academic achievement. 3

It’s kind of hard to NOT have a good time, when you’re getting ‘down and dirty’ with your friends!

Lastly, is the shift in affect, which is achieved through free play. Children who experience free play are naturally happy.  And isn’t that how children should be?  They are doing what they want, how they want.  Hey, don’t get me wrong I am NOT saying that we should hold boundaries and set-limits with youth, however, there is often space for them to explore that which is inherently valuable – their own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Whether it’s genuine happiness, or cognitive development, the importance of outdoor free play is undeniable.   SOLE will continue to provide opportunities for children to engage in this manner. With an increase in actual “screen time” the importance of providing these opportunities is paramount. If not now, when?  And what will the outcome be if we do not provide these opportunities?

Youth can engage in this manner in summer and school programs, including those listed below.  All summer programs are currently open for registration and enrolling strong.  For more information and/or to register for upcoming SOLE Experiences simply click on one of the programs below or go to our registration form to begin your process.  Feel free to contact us if you have any other questions or needs!

october

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november

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december

No Events

january

13jan(jan 13)8:00 am15(jan 15)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open ProgramAIARE 1 (Level 1 Rec) | Ski / Board | Youth Specific (16 - 25 y/o) 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (15) PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

19jan(jan 19)8:00 am21(jan 21)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open Program AIARE 1 (Level 1 Rec) | Ski / Board | Women's Specific 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (21) Libby, Montana | Cabinet Mountains, Montana

february

No Events

march

No Events

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

1 http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/485902

https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/02/15/how-free-play-can-define-kids-success/

Why enroll your child in a summer program with SOLE!

A recent study showed that youth are now spending (9) non-school related hours per day, that’s (63) hours per week connected to a media device1! Add school projects and homework and we are developing a concerning phenomena.   ReWild your child in SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience program, or let your teen go on an outdoor adventure of a lifetime in SOLE’s Teen Trek Experience program this summer!  Why? Well let’s take a closer look.

Thanks to brain mapping, we now have evidence that youth and adolescent brains are actually quite sensitive and malleable to external stimuli.  In fact, the adolescent brain has the opportunity to establish essential memory pathways during those years of development, like those related to what are considered executive functions (e.g., higher order processing skills).

Photo credit: Ucla.edu3

During this time, the brain also has the ability to get rid of unnecessary neurons through a process known as neural pruning, which is actually quite similar to getting rid of unproductive limbs on a fruit tee.  As neuroscientist Donald Hebb said, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”2  So, in short, if you don’t use it, you loose it. Because youth are spending an extraordinary amount of time “wired in” to media sources (like social media) they are essentially hard-wiring their brain to function in this fashion, and as a result, expect to receive and process information accordingly.  So you might so so what’s the big deal?

Well, simply put the ‘virtual’ cognitive processes aren’t always applicable in ‘real world’ contexts.  For example, navigating real world problems often requires intellectual flexibility, patience, resilience, and emotional regulation.  When our brains are rewarded in a simple and quick fashion ala ‘how many likes we have’ it presents a false sense of reality – that our end goal is quick and succinct.  This is obviously far from the norm.  Additionally, consider the social deficits that we reinforce as someone continually ‘looks down’ to communicate and relate.  Research is now showing increases in social anxiety, poor communication skills, emotional dysregulation, inattentiveness, and other mental, physical and behavioral health issues all due to being ‘disconnected’ through technology3.  Let’s shift to a cause and effect relationship.

If an animal is constantly fed by humans it becomes habituated – relying on those food sources to sustain their existence.  When released into the wild, they can’t function because they have been conditioned to live a certain way.   The human brain is not much different.  When utilizing technology in an unhealthy fashion, our brain becomes habituated – a creature of habit – expecting to give and receive information a certain way.

Pediatricians, neuroscientists, and youth development experts agree that our youth require diverse and intentional experiences ‘unplugged’ to help them grow into healthy adults.  SOLE’s transformational experiential education programs provides the essential ingredients to explore, achieve, and lead throughout the year.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 Reasons to immerse your child in a natural learning environment with SOLE this summer:

  1. Unplug to reconnect!  Providing an opportunity for your child to take a break from the TV, their smart phone, iPad, and social media accounts allows them to rediscover their creative powers through their natural senses.  This allows them to connect to the real world, with real people, through real activities, and therefore, forge real thoughts and emotions, as well as develop real relationships with others and their environment.
  2. Reconnect with our natural world!  Nature Deficit Disorder is a real condition, which has real consequences.  Summer outdoor experience provides the ideal setting to address nature deficit, and therefore, support  healthy child development.
  3. Develop executive functions!  Can you imagine going on a road trip without a map? Executive functions provide the essential ingredients to plan, organize, problem-solve, and cope when faced with challenges along the way.  SOLE’s summer programs provide the ideal setting for youth to develop these and other executive controls.
  4. Get physically active! As shown in the intro above, youth spend a significant amount of time today just sitting inside, sedentary, and wired-in.  Doing so has a negative impact on personal well-being.  After all, humans were not designed to be sedentary beings.  Through SOLE’s summer programs, and accompanying experiential curricula youth are provided the ideal setting to be physical activity through continuous experiential games and/or activities from start to finish in a fun and engaging fashion allowing the ideal setting to address this deficiency in a novel manner.
  5. Competence yields confidence! SOLE intentionally designs experiential/outdoor education curricula that allows program participants to develop and master outdoor and academic skills while simultaneously building self-confidence and self-esteem through active coaching and a peer-based culture grounded on a safe and positive learning environment.  This provides the ideal setting to take a risk, learn from your failures, and master skills.
  6. Become flexible and resilient! The reality in the ‘real world’ is that it doesn’t always go as we expect it to.  Being successful in life requires that we execute flexibility to adapt to the various stressors that life presents us.  Additionally, it is important that youth develop resilience.  Life chews us up and spits us out sometimes.  The more resilience that we are able to develop in our younger years, the better we are able to endure challenging setbacks.  SOLE’s summer programs provide a healthy dose of challenges that require youth develop these essential skills.
  7. Free time & unstructured play! Picture this.  You hike all day and arrive at a beautiful alpine lake, surrounding by mountains.  Untouched beauty.  In addition, to the other benefits of SOLE’s summer program offerings.  Our programs provide a natural setting to relax, laugh, and make long lasting friendships.  Free time & unstructured play also provide the opportunity for youth to tap into their creative and problem-solving skills which is why we intentionally place this time into our our summer programs, including our Junior Naturalist Experience programs.
  8. Develop meaningful relationships! SOLE’s summer programs provide the ideal setting to develop meaningful relationships with newly found friends, your surrounding natural world, even with yourself.  Our programs provide real world shared experiences without distraction fostering the opportunity to develop sincere and meaningful connections.
  9. Develop essential life skills!  During our programs we often share with our participants — it’s what happens AFTER the SOLE Experience that counts.  In other words, the skills that are mastered and the lessons learned are applicable well-beyond ‘out there’ and can be transferred and generalized into a ‘real world’ setting.  To do so,
  10. Grow independence! – SOLE’s summer programs provide the ideal setting for youth to make their own decisions without parents and teachers in the mix.  Making choices where there is a direct cause and effect relationship can foster independence and related benefits.  SOLE Field Instructors facilitate experiential programs that provide these and other ‘teachable moments’ for program participants.

Oh yeah, it’s good ‘ole fashion fun!

SOLE’s summer programs are uniquely positioned to foster healthy youth development.  SOLE’s summer programs are also the perfect partner for schools, families, youth groups, organizations, agencies, or community centers provide holistic education that yields an increase in personal self confidence and independence, problem-solving and decision-making skills, social and emotional skills, personal and character development – all in positive learning environment under the supervision of positive adult role models with formal experience and education.

So we hope your family will join us this summer as we venture out there!

 

Ready to get started?  Click on one of the SOLE Experiences SM below!

october

No Events

november

No Events

december

No Events

january

13jan(jan 13)8:00 am15(jan 15)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open ProgramAIARE 1 (Level 1 Rec) | Ski / Board | Youth Specific (16 - 25 y/o) 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (15) PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

19jan(jan 19)8:00 am21(jan 21)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open Program AIARE 1 (Level 1 Rec) | Ski / Board | Women's Specific 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (21) Libby, Montana | Cabinet Mountains, Montana

february

No Events

march

No Events

Dennison Webb, MA
Founder | Executive Director

 

 

Kersting, T. Disconnected: How to reconnect our digitally distracted kids.

https://ottawamindfulnessclinic.com/2010/05/06/neural-pruning/

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-teenage-brain-on-social-media

Be Bear Aware

Fall is a beautiful time to explore our local wildlands and feasting time for us all, including our local bears.  As such, it’s imperative that we take Bear Aware principles with us into as we journey into the backcountry to bike, hike, paddle, camp, hunt or fish.

This past weekend marked another grizzly attack this fall, once again in Montana (see video here – caution graphic material).  This occurred just on the heels of two other additional grizzly attacks of hunters in the same state back in September.  What was once a rarity (to see a grizzly in the wild, western backcountry) is becoming more prevalent due to the success in conservation of the species, and the habitat that it calls home.   In addition, black bears can also be troublesome and often more unpredictable, and can lead to unwanted encounters.  What ever the species, it is imperative that when we venture into the wild, we must remain vigilant and be bear aware.  

With winter fast approaching, bears are quite active in the fall storing reserves for their upcoming hibernation.  Folks often aren’t sure how to minimize their contact with a bear when exploring our wild landscapes.  So, to assist with this, we will share some Leave No Trace Outdoor Skills and Ethics  that we utilize (and teach) in the field, which are supported by our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.  We hope this information will help you minimize and mitigate this risk, and allow you to enjoy the remaining days of fall in the backcountry.  So let’s get started!

 Plan Ahead and Prepare:

As the first, of 7 Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles, Plan Ahead and Prepare often serves as the foundation.  It is a really good idea to spend some time and review the specific wildlife regulations for the area that you will be visiting, and even calling the land management agency of where you will be visiting.  Some questions to consider when doing so:

  • Do you require bear canisters and/or require that you store your food and other “smellables” in a particular manner?
  • Has there been any recent bear activity in the area that you will be visiting?

The old adage, a fed bear, is a dead bear” is true.  When we travel in the backcountry it is essential to minimize bears encounters, and their contact with human food.  Once bears have been introduced with human food they will continually seek it out as an easier food source, leading to continued encounters.  This is called habituation. On most occasions, this leads to a bear being “taken down” (e.g., killed).  This also includes selecting appropriate campsites, disposing of waste properly, considering appropriate food / smellable storage, and overall respecting wildlife.

Choosing an Appropriate Campsite:

BearmudaTriangle_0.jpgA good consideration is to local open space areas to camp versus those that are densely vegetated to allow for more awareness for both you and the bear of each other’s presence.  In addition, you may consider the “bear”muda triangle (see image to the right), which positions your cooking, shelter, and food storage area 100 yards from each other.

Dispose of Waste Properly & Appropriate Food / Smellable Storage:

bearhangAnother important LNT Principle is Dispose of Waste Properly.  This can effect whether or not we lure in one of our furry friends, and can be counter productive.  For example, while broadcasting grey-water may be a common practice when considering this principle, it can also spread the odor when doing so on land.  Not ideal in grizzly country.  Therefore, other considerations can include digging a sump (6-8″ deep) to dispose of grey-water from cooking, cleaning and brushing teeth. Read more from our partners at Leave No Trace here.

When considering storing food and “smellable” items (i.e., sunscreen, toothpaste, deodorant, lotions, chapstick, etc.) some land management agencies in bear country allow backcountry users to utilize bear hangs (see image left) in lieu of bear canisters.

If you do decide to go old school, and “hang a bear bag”, there are definitely some considerations to take.  You’ll need to consider an appropriate set-up, including specific location, appropriate distance (e.g., minimum of 5′ x 5′ x 12′), durable “bear bags”, rope, and some know how.  Review some additional tips from The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics here and check out the image above to help get you started.  In addition, if you choose the bear hang method, make sure that the area that you are visiting actually has trees!  Alpine areas like those with tundra where bears can frequent do not, so you’ll need to make adjustments to your bear storage considerations.

If the terrain you will be traveling in is not advantageous to a bear hang and/or the land management agency does not allow bear hangs in their food storage allowances, you will have to either purchase or rent a bear canister.  There are several great models, and if you don’t want to purchase one and won’t use it frequently you can actually rent them for a nominal fee from a land management agency or gear shop.  After all, they are kind of spendy!  If you decide to go this route and are venturing into the our neck of the woods, in the Selkirks, Purcells, or Cabinets feel free to contact us to rent one directly from us!

Respect Wildlife:

As one of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, and an awareness of what exists out there, one might think it should go without saying – Respect Wildlife.  Still it’s worth noting.  Here are some tips to assist you in doing just that.

  1. When traveling in bear country make noise!  Yelling, “Hey Bear!” is the go-to, but should be done on average of once every 5 – 10 seconds.  Some people recommend every 30, however, you can carry a lot of ground in 30 seconds and your voice doesn’t carry too far in dense vegetation or near a noisy mountain creek.  In addition, when entering dense vegetation, around blind corners, and near loud creeks we recommend to also add some clapping to really let you presence be known.  One of the main contributing factors to unwanted bear encounters is alarming a bear, and catching them off guard.  Not a great scenario, especially when it’s a healthy sow with cubs.  While we all love to have those pristine, peaceful moments in the wild, it’s important that when traveling in bear country to also minimize encounters for their sake and yours.
  2. Travel in groups of 4 or more.  It has statistically been shown that hiking in groups of four or more is safer while traveling in griz country, however one could argue that it may be a wise practice in any type of bear country.
  3. View at a distance.  Bears can cover a large distance in a short amount of time.  While they are amazing to view in the wild, putting real estate between you and a big ‘ole bruin is a good thing, so use binoculars at a distance.  To give you some perspective, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service a grizzly can cover 50 yards in 3 seconds, or 40 miles and hour.  That’s faster than a race horse over shot distances!  Learn more bear encounter facts from the Fish and Wildlife Service  here.
  4. Effective use of bear spray to deter an encounter!  Bear spray has proven itself to be quite effective, and often a last resort.  However, it is only as effective as the actual user.  We recommend that you research what type of bear spray to purchase, and educate yourself on how to use it.  Here is a great little introductory video from Rick Landers of the Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) on how to use bear spray effectively, and here is a great powerpoint from the United States Geological Survey on bear spray.

Blog support from our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: http://www.lnt.org

For more information and to become more backcountry savvy, consider taking one of SOLE’s Leave No Trace Courses, or design your own!  These courses allow participants to learn and master these skills in the environment that they will be traveling in.

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

Are you in the know?

Nowadays, it’s easy to get lost in translation as technology grows by leaps and bounds, even daily it seems.  As a grassroots nonprofit, grounded on a sustainable and forward-thinking vision and mission technology provides the ideal platform to share upcoming events, important updates and other specifics related to who we are, what we do, and how we do it.  As such, it is our aim to keep you up to speed on how to actually stay informed and up to date with all things related to SOLE!  Social media platforms like Facebook continue to evolve, and while we are sure their intention is to maximize efficiency and streamline their process for some (including us mind you) it becomes cumbersome!  In fact, us recently we have become aware that SOLE’s Facebook Feed has been dropping out for some of our followers.  So we’ve done some digging, and we have found a solution which will allow YOU to stay in the know!

First, you need to go to SOLE on Facebook.  There you can follow the simple steps below to ensure that SOLE shows up consistently in your Facebook Feed.  Again, go to the SOLE Facebook page which can also be found at the following URL: https://www.facebook.com/SOLEExperiences/ to begin the process.

Are you there?  Great!  You can now complete the simple (3) step process, which is shown in the following image and described in detail below.  This will allow you to stay up to date, and in the know!

How to follow SOLE on FB

  1. “Step 1” (yellow circle in screenshot image) in the process is to click on the RSS Feed button.
  2. “Step 2” (orange rectangle in screenshot image) in the process scroll down and under “In Your News Feed” select “See First”.
  3. “Step 3” (red rectangle in screenshot image) in the process scroll down and under “Notifications” select “On (Events)”.

There you are all done!  Now you will receive up to date info from our News Feed, including upcoming events, programs, online lessons, and all good things related SOLE!

SOLE receives generous support for our SnowSchool Experience program!

Since it’s inception in 2014, SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM program has become a cornerstone of our organization’s experiential education program offerings serving over 800 youth over the past (3) years.  While SOLE strives to custom-tailor all SOLE Experiences SM for individual participants, schools, and other stakeholders we serve, this program primarily serves 5th – 12th grade local area public and private schools.  Each season program participants are able to experience a rich interdisciplinary curricula which includes lessons related to  SOLE’s 4 Cares SM, snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness, and winter outdoor living and travel skills.  SOLE aligns SnowSchool Experience SM curriculum to state standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core to ensure that goals, objectives, and learning targets are met.  Coupled with novel organizational philosophies, evidence-based best practices, and pedagogies related to experiential education to include outdoor education, place-based education, and project-based learning – students come to SOLE each winter to be immersed in a natural learning learning environment where they can truly explore, achieve, and lead!

A noteworthy and consistent goal of our organization is to provide affordable access to the transformational experiential education programs we offer, including our SnowSchool Experiences SM.  As such, SOLE staff and board works diligently constructing grants, soliciting sponsorship, and fundraising during our Annual Backcountry Film Festival events held each fall.  And the hard work is continuing to pay off.  Over the past few months we have had the great fortune to receive two grant awards from local foundations to support our SnowSchool Experience SM program, allowing us to ‘reach and teach’ into 2017!

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Earlier this summer, SOLE received notice that we would be awarded a $7,000 grant award from the Panhandle Alliance for Education (PAFE) to support our 5th grade SnowSchool Experience program with Lake Pend Oreille School District.  This noteworthy support will provide access to a (3) day experience for over 300 5th students in Lake Pend Oreille School District.  Students experience a pre-lesson in the classroom where they are oriented to what to expect “in the field”, introductory experiential lessons related to watershed geology, hydrology, and geography; mountain snowpack as it relates to a community natural resource including an orientation to the ever important concept known as Snow Water Equivalency (SWE).  Once in the field students deepen their learning comprehension as they experientially learn the finer points of snowshoeing, winter ecology, and snow science.  This full day portion of the program includes experiential lessons on introductory outdoor living and travel skills, winter ecology, and snow science.  The later includes the completion of a thorough snowpit profile where students collect data and assess the snowpack to include, hardness, snow crystallography, temperature, and SWE.  Once back in the classroom students synthesize the data they collected and compare and contrast their findings to local historical SWE trends to draw conclusions related to their communities’ water resource needs.  This includes completion of a line graph detailing their findings.  As one might imagine, this program provides a novel gateway to address academic standards related to math, science, and other core subject, as well as those related to physical education, leadership, and character development.

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More recently, SOLE was also awarded a $10,000 grant from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Equinox Foundation Grant Program for our SnowSchool Experience SM program expansion. This support will continue our work within Bonner County schools to include providing custom-tailored SnowSchool Experiences SM for schools like Clark Fork Junior / Senior High School, as well as expand offerings into the Boundary County School District.  Areas of focus will include those aspects previously mentioned, as well as providing opportunities to teach snow science related to avalanche awareness, and outdoor living and travel skills for the youth of Bonner and Boundary County.

We are truly grateful for the continued support that these three organizations have shown towards our SnowSchool Experience SM program, and SOLE at large.  Because of this support, will be able to further our mission and students will be afforded access to the transformational experiential education programming that our SnowSchool Experience SM program offers.  Additionally, we are also grateful for the continued support that Schweitzer Mountain Resort, the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center , and the Winter Wildlands Alliance has shown to underpin our work in the field.

Still the work continues, as the grants awarded will only partially support our SnowSchool Experience SM program as it is currently established.  In addition, we have a greater vision which includes the establishment of yurts at our SnowSchool Experience SM Field Campuses, including Schweitzer Mountain Resort so our programs have access to a classroom space in times of severe inclement weather, and so these programming opportunities are available for future local area youth in our region.  You can do you part by attending and participating in our Annual Backcountry Film Festival, becoming a program or event sponsor, or by making a tax deductible in-kind or financial contribution by clicking here or simply contact us.

For those seeking further evidence of the benefits please take time to look at our SnowSchool Experience SM videos, and review some of the numbers, comments, and student story below:

Elementary SnowSchool Experience SM program video:

Middle & HighSchool SnowSchool Experience SM program video:

Some relevant numbers:

  • Between 60-97% of the students that attend our local public schools qualify for a free-reduced lunch (at or below the poverty level).
  • Over 80% of the students rated their SnowSchool Experience as 4 or 5 (on a 1-5 Likert-type Scale)
  • Over 70% of students acknowledged snowshoeing and exploring their local mountain ecosystem for the first time.
  • Over 80% of students demonstrated a greater understanding of the importance of mountain snowpack as it relates to our communities water resource needs.

Some of the many positive comments.

  • “I really liked learning about different trees.”
  • “Best trip Ever!”
  • “I hope that they will never stop SnowSchool! Fun and education!!”
  • “I learned so many new things at SnowSchool,such as: snow-shoeing.”
  • “I had fun because I got to do science I might not get to do anymore unless I become a hydrologist.”
  • “I would like to share that I would go again if I had a chance.”
  • “The most awesome field trip I have ever gone on!” 

A student’s story:

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Personally, when I reflect on our organization’s accomplishments with this program and view the view the pieces above I recognize the significant benefits that this transformational experiential education program offers our local area youth including the ability to make sound academic connections in a novel manner, as well as the opportunity to be immersed in a natural learning environment to further develop a relationship within themselves, with their peers, with their environment, and with their community.

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director