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Stevens overcomes outdoor obstacles

October 26, 2010

Photo by Skye Butler

By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer

Thirty feet of the ground with only two ropes holding me from my death, I take a step off the platform and onto the wire. Heart beating fast, legs shaking, and palms sweaty, I take another step with the encouragement of my peers. Fear is running through my body like blood, but I keep going trusting my friends, the equipment I’m using, and my own judgment.

The Discovery students took on challenge courses this past week. Challenge courses incorporate different obstacles that individuals try to maneuver through either by themselves or with a group to build on issues of trust, communication and leadership. In challenge courses, good facilitators use the participants’ experiences to make a bigger impact on the participants’ lives.

This is very hard to do sometimes. Because every group is different, therefore, every experience is different. It is hard to show someone who is scared of heights that they made it through a high ropes course, so they can deal with other fears in their lives. This is where being a good facilitator includes being a good educator and handling group dynamics.

Last Thursday, the outdoor education program changed its name to outdoor leadership. The school administration decided there was some confusion on the program since it is not part of the school’s educational program. The administration decided the best action would be take “education” out of the title and change it to outdoor leadership. Although many other schools have educational programs that are not under educational departments, including the University of Georgia who has both an Art Education and a Music Education, neither of which are under their educational department.

My own opinion is that I very much dislike the change. I love the major and the program because it develops us as educators. In this Discovery semester we are learning a lot of hard skills of how to handle the technical side of the activities, but we also learn the educator part of how to take the technical experience and make it a learning experience.

This name change undermines who we are as students in the program to simply call us leaders instead of educators. When we are teaching someone about big issues in life such as trust and communication, we are more than leaders, we are educators.

Besides the change itself, I disagree with the way the change was brought about. No one in administration asked the students on their opinion. It was a total surprise to the program’s students. I also think instead of settling confusion, the change will create more confusion.

Everyone on campus and involved in the program is use to the program being outdoor education. With the change, many people are confused if the program is the same or if it has changed. Though there are other degrees similar to ours such as Brevard’s Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, the point that made the program special at YHC, was that it was one of two outdoor education programs in the state. Simply changing the name makes the degree less special in the big picture.

From my understanding the program itself is not changing at all. As we continue through our Discovery semester we will continue to learn the hard skills involved in outdoor pursuits, and we will continue to learn how to be great future educators in our field. Politics are politics and nothing will ever change that, but as far as I am concerned I am an outdoor education major at Young Harris College, not an outdoor leadership major.

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