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DEC. 4, 2013

Why We Paddle

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Wilderness programming takes up one fourth of our academic semester here at OA, which is a lot! As the Outdoor Programs Coordinator, I have been actively working with Michael on developing learning outcomes and curriculum for all of our trips. Students benefit most from the interpersonal and intrapersonal communication that takes place, but how might we be able to quantify this?

The local rivers, rocks and trails provide a sense of place to students to the local Appalachian culture. We are doing the good work and students are achieving more than they ever thought possible, and I believe this paraphrased paddling reflection paper from Grace Horvath, Semester 37, sums up what we can accomplish.

“My paddling expectations were changed after trying to laugh everything off, and I began to get upset and became harder on myself. The canoe would veer to the left and not paddling effectively, the boat would float further and further away from the direction we intended.  Being in the stern with my partner Luke, I had the responsibility of steering and found myself arguing with him when I thought he would mess up. I told him he didn’t have to use corrective strokes and I could do it all by myself, becoming ever so irritated with him. 

I then verbalized to him that I would work with him on strokes, allowing myself to not have all control. We then were able to become effective communicators and boaters at the same time.

In school I have realized I hold myself to high standards and form unneeded pressures onto myself and am affected negatively. Recognizing that I wanted to be totally in control during paddling this weekend was a big step for me. Not only will I begin to be calmer, I also am able to move past it and personally grow as an individual. I practiced canoeing with an open mind for the rest of the weekend and enjoyed it so much more. I was also proud to come back to school and be able to say, “I have taken a refreshing step toward a difficult personal goal.”

So as you can see, wilderness program trips do not always have to be quantified to justify why we spend so much time on trips at our amazing school. Reading through the rest of student reflection papers, there were common threads present throughout about personal growth, working with other peers and learning new skills. Sometimes it takes the context of a river, local crag or trail to allow students to step up as leaders and accomplish personal goals throughout their time here at OA.

Lucas Newton
Outdoor Programs Coordinator