05 October 2007

Outward Bound Wilderness

contributed by shira

Outward Bound Wilderness is an expeditionary education program with the wilderness as the proverbial classroom. Teachers are Mother Earth, trained Outward Bound instructors, other participants, and yourself. Its adventure-based courses range from canoeing in Maine to backpacking in Colorado, from Desert Backpacking in the Southwest Canyons to Sea Kayaking in Costa Rica, and numerous other courses in between.

For many years, Outward Bound (OB) has had open enrollment courses designed for Deaf/HoH participants. These courses, primarily backpacking courses in Colorado, bring together Deaf and HoH people for 2-3 weeks of backcountry travel with the guidance of OB-trained instructors who are Deaf or ASL-fluent.

Participants, regardless of skill and experience level in backpacking, will find a certain degree of contentment from the course. The thrill of navigating through brush, smelling mountain air, eagerly anticipating afternoon thunderstorms, and watching the moon and sun switch places early in the morning, is shared by those who readily embrace these types of sensations. Participants learn rope-knotting techniques, map-reading skills, the art of setting up tarps below rolling grey clouds, while practicing Leave No Trace (LNT), which are codes of environmental stewardship that everyone should follow. You might begin a course in which you know nobody, or perhaps one or two people (or know of some people, as is common in the Deaf community), but in the end, after daily check-ins and group discussions about the day that has passed and the days that lie ahead, you leave the course knowing what makes you tick, and what makes everyone click.

OB has had difficulty maintaining enrollment for this course, and thus cancelled the Deaf/HoH open enrollment course last summer, much to the dismay of many. OB presented reasons for this cancellations which range from low enrollment numbers, lack of funding, and the trend of uncompleted courses by participants who are supported by OB scholarships.

OB also has “contract courses” in which they custom-design a course for those who’d like a course for their organization or school. For many years, schools such as the Rochester School for the Deaf have taken advantage of individualized and tailored course for their students. Students learn how to work together through several group challenges, both planned and unexpected, but always real, and how to safely travel through the mountains or through a high ropes course.

Opportunities for backcountry travel don’t present themselves very often in many of our lives – OB becomes the means by which people can connect with the wilderness and learn the value of “oneness” among other people and nature under the guidance of skilled instructors. There are qualified Deaf instructors out there who are ready to impart their knowledge about the wilderness and to ignite a fire of passion about the wilderness in each person they meet. Such instructors are Jeffrey Roberts and Jesse Woosley whose bios are posted in EcoDeaf. Simply put, OB becomes a valuable employer and a valuable resource for those who want to engage in adventure education.

Contact OBW to get them to reinstate their open enrollment course, hire Deaf instructors, and to request a “contract course” for your organization or school. Everyone wins in the long run – most importantly, your soul wins.


1 comment:

  1. Gallaudet University has a Personal Discovery program that is very similar to Outward Bound. You can even go through their training to become a leader. I highly recommend it.