Outdoor Education at CMC finds ‘No Fear’
“No fear.” It’s the phrase of the day. Young people test the absolute limits of themselves in extreme sports. Some find power in risk-taking, while others find pitfalls in injury. From the Crocodile Hunter to the X Games, hyped-up imagery calls for real-life challenges.
There’s a lot that can be learned from facing your fears. You can even make a living from having the courage to challenge yourself both mentally and physically. The Outdoor Education program at Colorado Mountain College trains students for outdoor careers using outdoor adventure education.
It’s here that students learn the natural history of forest environments, geology, weather and group leadership. Not from a book, but from 10,000 feet on a crisp Colorado morning. This is where students hike 10 miles a day over mountain passes, gaining and losing 1,500 feet in altitude. Or they lug backpacks with food and supplies, breaking trail in two feet of powder to camp overnight in snow caves on Vail Pass.
This is where “no fear” meets good judgment.
This is where altitude sickness, homesickness, spider bites, cold nights camping out and twisted ankles make “psychological evacs,” or students who leave trips.
But this is really about students facing fear to learn more about themselves and the environment than they ever imagined, in a supportive group atmosphere. They learn to face perceived risks and address real risks. This is where risk, effort, tenacity and difficulty create leaders.
Charlotte Talley made it. She challenged herself to get a degree in outdoor studies at CMC. Then she majored in environmental science/outdoor studies at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. For her senior project, she rode a bicycle from Portland, Ore., to New York City with Outward Bound. Then she landed her dream job as a state park ranger on the beaches of South Carolina.
Before long Talley’s adventuresome spirit led her to volunteer for a photographic expedition between Mexico and Canada. A team of four left each U.S. border traveling exclusively on public lands, not necessarily where there are roads. For 60 days Charlotte hiked, biked, canoed, kayaked and rode horses and ATVs to meet the team from the south. National Geographic Today featured the trip on television.
Talley currently teaches life science to sixth-graders in South Carolina’s private Hammond School. “I teach my classes now as I learned them at Colorado Mountain College,” she says. “Hammond is a small school that really emphasizes hands-on learning in a non-traditional sense. That’s how I learned at CMC. There’s no way you can learn about a canyon unless you’re in the middle of it.”
If Charlotte’s story resonates with you, you might want to consider a career in the outdoors, too. CMC’s Spring Valley Center of the Roaring Fork Campus offers an associate of arts degree with an outdoor education emphasis and a certificate in outdoor education.
Bruce Kime has directed CMC’s Outdoor Education program for 16 years. For more information about outdoor education at Colorado Mountain College, please contact the college’s Public Information Office at (970) 384-8506.
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