Sports & Outdoors

Loggers gear up for Puget Sound’s own Outdoor Leadership School

Pictured: The coast along Olympic National Park — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Each spring, Loggers pack their backpacks and pull out their rain-resistant notepads for OLE, Puget Sound’s own Outdoor Leadership Experience course. With the goal of turning the casual weekend warrior into a trained outdoor leader, Assistant Director of Student Activities for Outdoor Programs Justin Canny and former OLE students use experiential learning to take outdoor education to the next level.

“OLE provides an opportunity for participants to learn about leadership, group dynamics, trip planning and outdoor skills through peer-based and experiential learning modalities. All the participants are leaders who learn in an environment where they can experiment, make mistakes and learn from real situations,” Canny said.

OLE applications are released in early February, drawing a crowd of eager learners, and classes begin in early April. Over the course of five weeks, students are taught how to use a Whisper Lite stove, how much food to pack for a weekend in the woods and other important trail skills.

OLE culminates in a student-led trip along the Olympic coast, so learners have the opportunity to practice their newly developed skills and spend a few days playing outside with their friends.

“OLE is great for people who are just beginning their relationship with the outdoors because it’s pretty slow paced and there are smaller group, partner projects, you are able to process what you’re learning at your own pace,” OLE alumna Grace Phillips said.

Each course dynamic is different, depending on the excitement and willingness of students to engage and learn, but all produce capable and confident outdoor leaders.

“Each participant is impacted differently from the OLE experience. From the opportunity to lead and learn together, participants gain confidence in themselves as leaders and they learn to build community. These are life-long skills which transcend the outdoors,” Canny said.

Besides just outdoor skills, OLE offers students social benefits as well. “It really fostered a sense of community for me. Because it was a mandatory weekly class and there were sometimes things on the weekend, you get to know people you otherwise might not meet,” Phillips said. “Even after the trip was over I remained close with the people in my group.”

Junior Abbie Gustke agreed, noting the social capital value of OLE as one of her favorite parts as well. “I loved OLE because it gave me an opportunity to connect with new people, while all exploring my own capacities for growth and leadership in the outdoors,” she said.

If students want, after they complete the course, as well as some additional wilderness first aid courses, they can lead Puget Sound Outdoor trips of their own, which Canny notes, “is a base for meaningful work in environmental education, wilderness therapy and adventure leadership during the summer or post college.”

The application for this spring is passed, but keep an eye out for next year’s course, early in 2020.