ODST Advanced Topics Class Syllabus 2019 | St. Lawrence University Outdoor Program

ODST Advanced Topics Class Syllabus 2019

ODST 3003: Advanced Topics of Outdoor Leadership and Education

Phil Royce, Director, Outdoor Program x5376, c 315.323.1259

Devin Farkas, Assistant Director, x5018, c 914.420.0489

ODST: Advanced Topics is an intensive course designed to prepare participants to teach outdoor education and leadership skills.  By means of study, experience, and reflection this 1 unit field course will explore the basic theories, concepts, and skills in the field of outdoor leadership and education including: Leadership roles, group dynamics, decision-making and heuristics, risk management, outdoor recreational and environmental impact best practices, teaching principles and techniques, and considerations and concerns related to specific outdoor pursuits and recreation.

Previous experience in outdoor education and/or leadership is desirable, but not required to participate in the ODST: Advanced Topics.  The course is the foundation for training Outdoor Program student staff, known as Hadwen Guides. Hadwen Guides are paid student staff who work for the OP in a wide array of jobs, including backcountry trip leaders, teaching assistants, facilities staff, and skills instructors for the rock, ice, paddling, and ski programs.

Course Expectations:
The course instructors expect students to show a high level of initiative throughout this course. Students are expected to attend all mandatory class sessions, arrive promptly and prepared to engage in the course material.  In addition, students are expected to complete a final field practicum at the end of the semester.  The final field practicum will act as a capstone experience where students will demonstrate leadership and teaching abilities, as well as facilitate group discussions on the readings and relevant topics. Students are expected to reflect upon their personal development through a journal, and will have several writing assignments related to course readings.


Leadership Roles:

  • Effectively practiced all four leadership roles: self, peer, designated, and active followership


  • Communicated opinions, ideas, and values appropriately
  • Actively listened and balanced listening with speaking
  • Gave growth-oriented, specific, behavior-descriptive feedback


  • Behaved with awareness of their influence on others
  • Understood their strengths and areas for growth
  • Accepted feedback and worked to apply it

Judgment and Decision-Making:

  • Participated in the decision-making process appropriately
  • Ran effective debriefs and participated in them to learn and grow
  • Made and supported decisions that reflected the group’s needs and abilities

Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty:

  • Stayed calm, focused, and positive during hardship
  • Influenced the group positively in times of hardship
  • Addressed conflict appropriately as it arose

Vision and Action:

  • Demonstrated initiative and completed tasks
  • Set and attained personal goals
  • Effectively planned and led travel and course activities

Expedition Behavior:

  • Supported a positive and inclusive learning environment:
  • Treated all people with dignity and respect and welcomed people different from themselves
  • Used polite and respectful language
  • Supported leadership in all group members
  • Was punctual and prepared for meetings and course activities
  • Balanced the group’s needs with their own
  • Took initiative to complete course tasks with the success of the group in mind

Risk Management:

  • Demonstrated awareness of objective and subjective hazards
  • Effectively used risk management terminology, tools, and models to communicate about risk
  • Managed risk to self and others while applying the concept of situational awareness throughout all course activities

Outdoor Living Skills:

  • Demonstrated self-care: dressed effectively, balanced food and water intake with energy expenditure, etc.
  • Cooked quality meals
  • Storm proofed and kept gear and camp organized
  • Established appropriate campsites and kitchens
  • Packed effectively and efficiently
  • Took care of personal and group gear; Repaired gear when necessary

Travel Skills:

  • Navigated effectively using topographic maps
  • Effectively chose routes and assessed terrain off trail
  • Navigated effectively using a compass
  • Effectively used a GPS as a tool
  • Comfortably moved through varied terrain

Teaching Skills:

  • Led a discussion relevant to course material
  • Helped support an atmosphere of growth for the group through role modeling, sharing knowledge and openness to learning
  • Coached others effectively when appropriate

Leave No Trace Ethics:

  • Engaged in exploring the natural world and acquired new natural history knowledge
  • Performed sound Leave No Trace living and travel skills
  • Articulated their environmental values and ethic through discussions and in final paper

Transferable Lessons:

  • Engaged thoughtfully in group discussions
  • Demonstrated thorough understanding of complex issues in journal entries
  • Provided thoughtful reflection on how the course influenced a personal wilderness ethic, reflection of personal technology use and application of learned material

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Assignments & Grading

  • Contribution to Collective Learning (Ongoing) (20%)
    • As a hands-on, experiential course, your active involvement is required to deepen your own and your peers learning of the course material. This is in regards to the outdoor experiences, weekend trips and in-class discussions. In-class discussion will be fueled by your interpretation of the weekly readings. Field based experiences will provide students the opportunity to learn hard skills and develop a holistic understanding of the course content. Feedback will be offered in regard to student engagement and learning and will not be based purely on aptitude with a given skill.
  • Trip Plans (15%) (5% per plan)
    • Each weekend in the field will require a detail plan including logistics, route plan, risk management plan, and trip goals.
  • Reflection Journals (30%) (10% per response)
    • Each Monday of class following a weekend trip we will debrief the experiences from the weekend in relation to the assigned reading. Due the following Wednesday is a 4 page response paper informed by the reading, students experience and our in-class discussion.
  • Final Field Practicum (35%)
    • The capstone experience for the course is to plan and embark on a week-long wilderness based expedition. During the week, students will be assessed on their development of the hard skills needed to safely guide an outdoor trip. Students will keep a hand written journal throughout the trip, responding to nightly discussions that challenge students to consider what they’ve learned throughout the course and their experience on the expedition. This journal will be submitted at the end of the expedition to and will be graded.

Grading Scale:

Each assignment will be graded based on its percent weight for your final grade. So, something that is 5 % of your grade will be marked out of 50 points, and something that is 10% of your grade will be marked out of 100 points. At the end of the semester you will have some number of point out of 1000 possible points. If you were to get 1000 total point out of the possible 1000 points you would earn a 100% in the course for a final mark of 4.0. If you receive 900 total points out of the possible 1000 points you would earn a 90% in the course for a final mark of 3.5.

Below is the grade conversion we will use to determine your final mark for the course:

96-100% = 4.00
93-95% = 3.75
90-92% = 3.50
87-89% = 3.25
84-86% = 3.00
81-83% = 2.75
78-80% = 2.50
75-77% = 2.25
73-74% = 2.00
71-72% = 1.75
69-70% =1.5
67-68% =1.25
65-66% =1.00
00-64% = 0.0

Course Texts

  • Ajango, D. (Ed), (2000). Lessons learned: A guide to accident prevention and crisis response.           Anchorage, AK: University of Alaska Anchorage.
  • Burns, B, and Burns, M. (2015). Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS
  • Graham, J. (1997). Outdoor leadership: Technique, common sense, & self-confidence. Seattle, WA: The Mountaineers.
  • Harvey, M. (1999). The National Outdoor Leadership School’s wilderness guide. New York, NY: Fireside.
  • O’Bannon, A. & Clelland, M. (2007). Allen & Mike’s really cool backcountry ski book: Traveling & camping skills for a winter environment. Guilford, CT: Morris Book Publishing, LLC.
  • Pearson, C. (1997). NOLS Cookery. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books
  • Waterman, L. & Waterman, G. (1993). Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the spirit of wildness.   Woodstock, VT

Course Policies:

  • Attendance Policy: Much of your learning in the course will occur as you articulate your own ideas and listen to the ideas of your colleagues, against a background of steady experiences you will acquire in the outdoors, the wilderness, and the natural world.  Thus, class discussion and class experiences are central to fulfilling our goals for the course, and we expect every member of the class to engage in them fully, coming prepared and ready to participate. In some of your other courses you can obtain the lecture slides of a class session you missed after the fact. In this class, your experiences are considered content. If you miss a class session, you are missing a hands on experience that cannot be re-created, or described by a peer. This includes full Unexcused absences, including from the weekend trips, will lead to a deduction in points from your Contribution to Collective Learning grade.

In the case of a family or personal emergency, or firm and immovable commitment (for example: you’re siblings getting married and you’re in the wedding party) and there is no way for you to attend a class session, we will work to find you an alternative way to have an equally illuminating experience as those provided in the class session you miss. In these cases, even if we cannot arrange an alternative experience you will not face any deductions in points. If you do have a commitment, the more time you can give us the more likely we will be able to work with you to find a solution.

  • Late Policies.  You are expected to turn in all of your work on time.  You will not fail an assignment if it is turned in, but if it is more than one week late, you will not score higher than a 2.0.  Due dates are in both the course calendar and the assignment sheets for the specific assignments.  All late work will be penalized by 5% (half a grade) for each 24 hour period after it is due. For example, a perfect score on a 100 point assignment that is turned in 20 hours late will receive a 95, and a perfect score on a 50 point assignment turned in 20 hours late will receive a 47.5. We will give extensions depending on the circumstances.


Cost Of Course: $1,200

Wilderness First Responder: A requirement for guiding in the OP. Tentative dates May 12-18.  This is part of Guide Training, but is not part the Advanced Topics in Outdoor Leadership and Education.  If you already have your WFR, the cost of the course is $900.

Final Field Practicum: Tentative dates May 20-28

Course Schedule

  • Class times are in 4 hr blocks, typically 12-4pm.
  • Throughout the course there are three required weekend (Friday afternoon-Sunday evening) Field Trips
  • Capstone-Final Field Practicum: An eight-day field course in a wilderness setting where students will demonstrate leadership and teaching abilities and facilitate group discussions on the readings and relevant topics. This occurs after final exams.

Class 1   Course expectations, Introductions, personal course goals, backcountry clothing and equipment, basic camp craft

Class 2   Revisit course goals and create community contract, leadership roles, risk management, outdoor professionalism/qualities of an outdoor guide.

Class 3   Global Navigation: GPS, Compass, Topographic Maps

Class 4   Communication and decision making

Class 5   OP trip norms and teaching techniques

Class 6    Teaching introductory progression

Class 7   Risk Management including transportation (Vans, Trailers, and OP Protocol)

Class 8   Outdoor living and travel skills, Leave No Trace Ethics

Class 9   Adirondack Traverse Trip Prep
              Route Plan
              Ration Planning/Backcountry Nutrition

Class 10 Expedition Prep