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Educator Expedition: How to Encourage Student-driven Instruction

By Molly Herber on Apr 27, 2015
Stretching out before the next push. Photo by Jeannine Rupp
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Topics: Southwest, climbing, Educators Notebook, instructor, outdoor education, backcountry

Are You Ready to Lead in the Outdoors?

By Casey Pikla on May 9, 2014

By Leif Andreassen, Bruce Kaufman, Dorothy Voorhees, Eva Tsang, Anderson Baptista, Jared Barnett, and Reid Tileston

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Topics: Southwest, Expedition Prep, NOLS Pro, NOLS Professional Training

Golden Apple Scholarship winner taking NOLS course in 2013

By Casey Adams on Jul 31, 2012

Angela Rosenberg, a math teacher at Edgewood HS, of Edgewood, Md. received the first annual Golden Apple scholarship from Freedom Federal Credit Union. Rosenberg was always interested in the outdoors and became more interested when her friends took her rock climbing and hiking. She enjoys rock climbing best, and wants to continue to improve.

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Topics: Master's Program, NOLS, Outward Bound, Southwest, Adventure Learning, Tucson Ariz., Expedition Prep, outdoor leader, Plymouth University, experiential education, Project Adventure, Angela Rosenberg, Edgewood Md., Golden Apple Scholarship, explore, math, Plymouth State, education

Lending a Hand in Our Southwest Community

By NOLS Southwest staff on Apr 19, 2011

On Thursday April 14th branch staff at NOLS Southwest spent the day volunteering for Habitat for Humanity Tucson. As the morning sun rose over Reddington Pass ten eager staff piled into a van and drove to the build site in west Tucson where they met Mark the building site manager. He gave a little background info on the Tucson branch of Habitat, then handed out paint brushes and put the staff to work.

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Topics: NOLS, Behind the Scenes, humanity, Southwest, paint, staff, volunteer, NOLS Southwest, habitat

A Superheroic Southwest Seminar

By NOLS Southwest staff on Feb 9, 2011

This year marks the sixth year that NOLS has offered lightweight backpacking courses, through the Rocky Mountain branch as well as the Southwest. Each year, we offer a four day lightweight seminar for instructors who want to hone their lightweight skills and get some training in the specialized world of light and fast backpacking.

We were led by the two lightweight superheroes Matt Deines and Ryan Williams. The rest of our crew consisted of four awesome NOLS instructors, two artistically gifted NOLS film crew, one amazing branch director, and an intern tag-a-log.

One of the goals of the seminar this year was to "look good for the camera" so be sure to look for a new episode coming up, featuring lightweight techniques. Between the shiny new GoLite gear and the stunning backdrop of the Santa Teresa Wilderness, we captured a ton of great footage.

The first 24 hours of the course happened at the branch; eating popcorn, watching a specially made light and fast welcome movie, learning about the history of lightweight backpacking at NOLS, the philosophy of going light and the "BROMANCE"** of lightweight planning. We also spent a few hours weighing every piece of gear, trimming down unnecessary pieces (like spoon handles and clothing tags), and comparing base weights with fellow course mates. Only then were we finally ready to pack up the van and head out to the mountains. The heaviest of our packs weighed 23 pounds, the lightest 17-- and that's including food and one liter of water!

We knew that the next four days were going to be challenging as soon as we left the van. The temperature had plummeted and with a loud CRACK! we were introduced to the phenomenon of thundersnow. Despite cold nights, snow flurries, and windy conditions, our small packs allowed us to travel over some truly rugged and scenic country, leaving the trail behind us and making our own way over granite ridges, through thick forests of manzanita, and along twisted creek beds.

It was excellent training ground for this group of instructors, offering practical experience in staying warm, dry, fed, and in good spirits despite somewhat trying conditions, and with minimal gear. We concluded the course with a discussion of lightweight risk management and decision making, our personal take on lightweight style, and a brainstorming session about how we could bring some of the light and fast principles to more traditional NOLS courses. Instructors left the course well versed on the specifics of a lightweight system—from cooking with alcohol stoves to incorporating backpacks into the sleep system.

NOLS Southwest would like to thank the hardy instructors who made it through this seminar with so much laughter and general good humor. Thanks go out as well to our friends at GoLite for their timely box of gear goodies that were eagerly tested out in the field. If the thought of "going light" intrigues you, check out some of these upcoming NOLS course offerings.

**BROMANCE: A new NOLS acronym.

B=Big Three

R=Replace Gear with Lighter Gear

O=Organize and Weigh

M=Multiuse Items

A=Assessing Resources


C=Care of Equipment


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Topics: Go Light, NOLS, Southwest, Light and Fast, seminar, GoLite, Backpacking, Educators Notebook, Lightweight

The Southwest Outdoor Educator Course Brings History to Life in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

By NOLS Southwest staff on Jan 26, 2011

On a bluebird mid-January day in western Arizona a group of NOLS students descended a rocky desert canyon to re-emerge from the wilds at a ghostly visage of America’s past. They were not the only ones to happen upon the Rob Roy mine in the remote Kofa Mountains. Meeting them there were a team of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a carful of Southwest Branch staff. The goal of this Sonoran rendezvous was to aid in the restoration and preservation of a historic desert landmark.

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Topics: mine, educator, NOLS, Behind the Scenes, Southwest, outdoor, service project, fish, wildlife, kofa, construction

Sunsets, Saguaros, and NOLS Students: Spring in the Southwest

By NOLS Southwest staff on Jan 19, 2011

With the start of the New Year the Southwest Branch comes to life like an arroyo after strong desert rains. This season the branch welcomes some new faces among the familiar ones from the fall. Starting this January are our new Issue Room manager Charlotte, our new Transportation manager Bryan, and our four eager interns Dustin, Adam, Allie, and Slaton. Also new to the Branch are the students of the Southwest Outdoor Educators course, the Lightweight Backpacking course, and the first Semester course. All three course groups have successfully arrived at the Branch, geared up, and are currently in the field backpacking through the wilds of Arizona.

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Topics: hike, galiuros, Behind the Scenes, Semester, Southwest, sonora, Backpacking, Outdoor Educator, kofa, Lightweight

A day of service with Ironwood Tree Experience

By NOLS Southwest staff on Oct 29, 2010

On October 18th, the in-town staff at NOLS Southwest spent the afternoon donating some time for a great cause. We set out to meet up with Eric and Suzanne Dhruv, Directors of the Ironwood Tree Experience, (ITE) which is a local non-profit in Tucson. ITE is part of Prescott College’s Center for Children in Nature, and their mission is to connect teens with their community through experiences in nature.

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Topics: arizona, service, NOLS, Behind the Scenes, Tucson, Southwest, community project, clean up, trash, ITE, ironwood tree experience, greenlot, wilderness

What is it like to do a Semester in the Southwest?

By NOLS on Oct 29, 2010

From pre-course packing to unexpected outcomes, NOLS student Caroline Lauth has been updating her blog with posts from before and during her course.

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Topics: NOLS, Southwest, Expedition Prep, student blog

What's All This "Leadership Week" Hullabaloo About?

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Feb 19, 2010

Before I found out the real scoop, "Leadership Week" brought to mind masses of NOLS employees wearing matching t-shirts and holding hands while singing Kumbaya around a campfire and generally extolling the wonderiferousness (yes, that's a word in my dictionary) of NOLS.

Well, I wasn't too far off base when I found out the real scoop. Leadership Week does involve masses of NOLS employees, alums, friends, and family wearing matching t-shirts and generally extolling the wonderiferousness of NOLS. It may or may not involve some hand-holding. And it will involve some singing, more along the lines of "Give me an N! Give me an O! Give me an L! Give me an S! What's that spell?" And it will definitely involve fire, although it will be cooking stove fire and not campfire.

But stay with me here. Leadership Week involves more. It's a call to all the NOLS alums, friends, and family who are hiding in the weeds to come out of the woodwork (yes, I realize I am mixing metaphors) and tell everyone about their NOLS experience. It's also a call to action - tune into the web-site, and pick an item or two (or create your own) to do yourself. You might decide to review a book on Or, if your friends don't know they can make cheesecake or calzones or cinnamon rolls in the wilderness, you might want to invite them to a Whisperlite FryBake to show them the wonders of NOLS cookery. Or, you might want to just have a good time and play outside!

There are also several key events occurring throughout next week all over the country, starting TOMORROW, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18! If you are in the Tucson area tomorrow, you should drop by NOLS Southwest for the Leadership Week Kick-off Party at 3:30 p.m. Yes, free food and lots of fun to be had. Do it! And if you are enjoying the snow in Sun Valley or Ketchum, put your snowboard aside for a day and join area NOLS grads and friends for cross-country skiing,
mini-seminars, NOLS updates and après ski refreshments at
Galena Lodge. Details for both events are on the web-site.

There are also several events scheduled to occur at NOLS HQ in Lander, including a Leadership Week Olympics that involves a cook-off and an animal call challenge (I am particularly versed in the "Mosquito call"). I will be attending as many as I can and will give you my thoughts on future blogs. Stay tuned!

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Topics: backcountry cooking, NOLS, leadership, Sunn Valley, Olympics, Behind the Scenes, Tucson, Frybake, Southwest, Ketchum, NOLS cookery, cooking in the wilderness

NOLS Instructors Lighten Packs

By Ryan Hutchins-Cabibi on Feb 9, 2010

This last week NOLS Southwest was once again the proud host of the Lightweight Backpacking Seminar for NOLS Instructors. This annual training followed on the heals of two lightweight backpacking courses that successfully educated twenty new NOLS graduates.

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Topics: arizona, hike, NOLS, leadership, Tucson, Southwest, Training, National Outdoor Leadership School, outdoor, school, skills, shangri-la, backpack, AZ, caldera cone, GoLite, Backpacking, Mountain, Educators Notebook, instructors, trail, light, stove, Lightweight, education