Spending a Day with Inspirational Educators on a Hiking Workshop
The Outdoor Leadership Training program offers hiking and camping workshops for youth group leaders. On a hiking workshop at Tiger Mountain, participants with a variety of backgrounds came together to share experiences and learn how to safely plan and lead outdoor activities with youth groups.
On a warm Saturday in Issaquah’s West Tiger Mountain Natural Resource Conservation Area, I joined youth group leaders gathered at the High Point trailhead for one of the Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT) program’s hiking workshops.
A common passion
Led by WTA Youth Program Director Krista Dooley and OLT Coordinator Andrew Pringle, a diverse group of participants recently turned out to share experiences and learn how to safely plan and lead outdoor activities with youth groups. Among the participants were a diversity of leaders, educators who work with Girl Scouts, people with mobility issues and at-risk youth. They included seasoned outdoor enthusiasts and those newer to hiking, but everyone shared a common passion for providing their youth with outdoor opportunities.
A chance to practice, share strategies
As they hiked, half of the participants were selected to lead the group to a lake, where we would take a lunch break. Using a map and compass, they planned a route and convened at every trail intersection to check our location. The other half of participants led the group on the way back, giving everyone good practice for working together while leading a group and determining roles for leaders involved.
Along the trail, participants mingled and shared their experiences and goals in taking youth outside. They swapped ideas for games and activities, as well as strategies for encouraging healthy hiking practices. One educator shared their trail-tested activity Water Appreciation Moment, or a “WAM”, in which their youth took a break to rehydrate and shared a reason why they were thankful for water.
Success stories were told, and anxieties about planning outdoor trips were addressed. The workshop covered a wide range of topics including risk management, preparedness and planning, nutrition, and outdoor ethics. In groups, participants discussed hypothetical emergency scenarios and worked together to create an action plan.
Safety, usually the main concern in leading youth outings, was a large focus and information was shared about well-being and accessibility considerations.
An inspiring goal: fostering a positive connection to the natural world
As a WTA intern, I attended the workshop with a curiosity about the OLT program’s influence in furthering outdoor opportunities for youth in our state. I realized that the training facilitated a chain-effect with participants, creating a larger impact within the community. The program educates many youth group leaders who can utilize their new skills and resources to take their youth outside and create more opportunities, enabling broader youth participation in outdoor trips.
The thorough workshop provided a great opportunity for collaboration among the group. Participants received a Day Hike Workshop Manual at the end of the day, which includes information about everything covered in the training, as well as sample safety and health forms. Andrew and Krista expressed their availability as trip planning resources, and welcomed questions about trails and logistics.
I came away with a better sense of how the Outdoor Leadership Training program provides experiential learning, extensive resources, and creates a space for youth leaders with a variety of backgrounds to learn from one another.
I was inspired by the commitment displayed towards a common goal: taking youth outside to engage in a healthy pastime, promote learning experiences, and foster a positive connection to the natural world.