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Western Carolina University - PRM Field Experience

December 18, 2015

Eric Bartl

Ben Tholkes

Field Experience

October 29, 2015

 

Leave No Trace Master Educator

 

This fall I enrolled in a Leave No Trace Master Educator course through Landmark Learning. During the application process I found out that through a relationship that Landmark Learning and Western Carolina University have established I would be able to receive college credit for taking the course! Being able to receive college credit for my Master Educator all but sealed the deal. There was still one more hurdle. The cost. The Master Educator course was going to cost me close to $600. Upon further investigation I found out that the Landmark Foundation awards scholarships to students taking Landmark Learning courses. The deal was sealed. I contacted Landmark Learning to register for the course, and then I went to WCU’s registrar to register for PRM 486 Field Experience.

 

The application process to receive a scholarship was surprisingly simple. First, I had to write an application letter answering the following questions, “What role do you play/how do you participate in the outdoor community? How will your Landmark Learning course help you to be a stronger member of the outdoor community? What does risk management in an outdoor/wilderness environment mean to you?” I also had to provide Landmark Learning with two professional and one personal reference. Upon completion, the Landmark Foundation contacted me within the week to let me know that I would be receiving a scholarship!

Going into this course I thought I had a good understanding of the Leave No Trace principles. Little did I know, I was very wrong. I spend a lot of time in the woods and on the river, and thought I was employing reasonably responsible techniques to keep the environment around me un-impacted. While some of my techniques were on the right track, it turns out I had a lot to learn. I had no idea how many negative impacts campfires can have on the landscape. I love building a fire when I am in the woods. However, after taking this course I will reassess how necessary a fire is, and whether or not there are better alternative options. One of the biggest skills I learned was how to minimize campfire impacts by building mound fires. I had never thought of building a fire on a tarp, but now it makes sense. The other big mistake I realized I had been regularly making was disposing of food and waste water properly. I wasn’t aware that the best way to dispose of waste water is to dig a sump hole and pour it in. I also have been guilty of leaving behind bits of food claiming “it would go back to nature”.  By the end of the course, I realized the extent of the impact I had been having on the environment. I now feel confident in my abilities to reduce my impact and to teach others how to reduce theirs.

 

As a whole I found the class to be extremely enlightening with world-class instructors that helped teach us new habits without criticizing us for not already knowing the proper techniques. The teaching styles of both Mairi Padgett and Rob Barham complemented each other well. The engaging course content was stimulating and kept everyone in the class interested in the topics at hand. One of the best parts of the course was when we went to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Smoky Mountain National Park to talk to people about Leave No Trace and how easy it is to take care of what we have.  We set up a table and demo stations to teach people who were visiting the park. It was really great to get some experience teaching the principles I had just learned.

 

When looking back on this experience I had a blast learning to teach Leave No Trace principles. I learned tons of new material that I will take with me when teaching in the future. I would also like to thank both Landmark Learning and the  Landmark Foundation for all of their help in making this course happen. It would have never been possible without their help. I look forward to taking more classes through Landmark Learning in partnership with WCU in the near future.

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