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Orientation Camp 2020
Holderness News
New Outdoor Leadership Program
Greg Kwasnik

With signature programs like Out Back, Mountain Day, and Orientation Hike, outdoor recreation has long played a major role in the Holderness experience. In recent years, however, the school has lacked an enduring, student-run outing club.
 
But that’s all changing, thanks to the school’s new Outdoor Leadership Program started by Director of Outdoor and Climbing Programs Erik Thatcher ’08.
 
Last May, several rising seniors postponed their summer vacations to take part in a weeklong orientation for the Outdoor Leadership Program. They spent the week camping at nearby Rumney Rocks, where they learned trip leading skills and familiarized themselves with the principles of risk management – all while taking an intensive, four-day Wilderness Advanced First Aid course. During the upcoming school year, those students will use their newfound skills to co-lead Orientation Hike and Mountain Day groups, and lead several Outing Club trips.
 
The ultimate goal of the Outdoor Leadership Program is to get students to take more ownership of the Outing Club, which has ebbed and flowed over the years based on student interest. The popularity of the school’s Outing Club surged in the 1970s through the early 2000s, Erik says, and all but vanished by the time he was a student. Hopefully, Erik says, the new program will provide the scaffolding for students to construct their own outdoor adventures.
 
“The goal for the Outing Club the past couple of years has been to build it up to something substantial enough that students wanted to take ownership – that there was enough of a skeleton there that they could see what it could be and that motivated them to take charge,” Erik says. “Something like this has been kind of hoped for as the natural progression.”
 
During the school year, seniors in the Outdoor Leadership Program will be required to lead two Outing Club trips – one adventure-based trip, like backcountry skiing, and one workshop-based trip where students learn a new skill, like canoeing. While some students will no doubt use their newfound leadership skills to launch careers in outdoor recreation, the real goal of the program is to help students become more skilled, competent, and safe wherever their outdoor adventures take them. 
 
“The hope here is to design a program that’s going to make students better in all of their recreation personally, as much as if they ever choose to pursue it professionally,” Erik says. “We talk a lot about how all of this translates to being a better prepared climber, biker, skier, or paddler.”
 

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