Recreation, Parks and Tourism 676

RCPT 676: Wilderness Institute

Credit Hours: (3) Lectures, labs and field trips integrated into an intensive, experiential, primarily off-campus course

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

This class provides graduate students with an in-depth experience in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of wilderness-based educational programs, including extending wilderness expeditions. Topical issues include environmental education, resource management, risk management, program design and group facilitation.

Offered Summer I


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course is designed to provide students with an experiential background in the planning and management of environmental and experiential education programming. Topics covered in the course will include the management of natural areas and natural resources, environmental and social issues impacting local environments, educational strategies appropriate to outdoor environments and environmental ethics. Students in this course will also receive training in a variety of technical skills common to experiential and adventure oriented programs such as rock climbing, caving, rappelling, belaying and low-impact travel. In addition, managerial issues pertinent to these activities will be addressed. These managerial issues include risk management plans, liability, curriculum development, equipment maintenance and relations with resource management agencies.


Detailed Description of Course Conduct

An interdisciplinary and environmental approach to outdoor adventure education has been incorporated into this course. This approach transcends the distinction between "hard skills" (technical skills) and "soft skills" (counseling, facilitation, group dynamics). This approach also incorporates an environmental or ecological ethic, which emphasizes both a knowledge of and an appreciation for the environments in which outdoor adventure activities occur. A minimum impact approach to outdoor activities is emphasized throughout the course.

In addition, the experiential learning cycle is integrated into the various aspects of the course. The major components of this model are individual and group goal setting, the process or debriefing of experiences, personal growth contracting (the full-value contract), challenge by choice, and the "conscious use of metaphor". Lastly, to insure safety and graduated learning, a sequence of progressively challenging experiences is provided. The methods used in this course include most if not all of the following:

  • Lectures, simulations, case studies, clinics, readings, small group discussions, guest speakers, peer presentations and field trips.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students will:

  • be aware of the differing missions and strategies of various land managing agencies.
  • identify a variety of environmental issues and describe the range of opposing viewpoints that make these things "issues"
  • demonstrate the use of several different styles of outdoor teaching
  • compare experiential learning to other styles of environmental education
  • demonstrate competency in the technical skills covered in the course, as assessed by a practical exam with a competency checklist
  • demonstrate competency in a variety of facilitation and processing skills as assessed by a practical exam and competency checklist
  • demonstrate a working knowledge of common risk management procedures in experiential education
  • demonstrate a working knowledge of program planning, logistics and assessment procedures for experiential education
  • develop a philosophy of environmental/experiential education


Assessment Measures

Assessment is based on participation in field trips, exams on various topical areas, oral presentations, quizzes, practical exams and demonstration of basic outdoor leadership skills.


Other Course Information



Approval and review dates

July 1997 New course approved Course number changed from LESE 576 to RCPT 676