Learning beyond classrooms

Nurturing leadership skills in the wilderness

3/22/2018 2:33:11 PM

Jeff Martin, CNA’s program developer for experiential education, and students, enjoying breakfast together at Gros Morne National Park as a part of the Winter Wilderness Leadership Camp.

Students performing a team activity called Toxic Waste, which requires team work, problem solving and communication to solve. The students have to pick up a small can with toxic waste (coloured water) and carry about 50 ft. away without spilling it, then pour it into a larger can with a neutralizing agent. The can is in the middle of an 8 ft. diameter circle that they cannot enter, so it gets tricky.

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CORNER BROOK, NL - Leadership and teamwork are important aspects of personal and professional development, which has been the foundation for the creation, and enormous success, of College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Winter Wilderness Leadership Camp.
Traditionally held annual during the March reading break, this year’s camp had nine second-year students and two instructors participating in the three-day, two-night Winter Leadership Experience in Gros Morne National Park.
Jeff Martin, CNA’s program developer for experiential education, says the overall outdoor adventure aims to help participants gain experience in leadership, outdoor safety and teamwork.
“The students came from all over the province: Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Gander, Clarenville, Corner Book, Ridge Road and Prince Phillip Drive campuses. We had over 20 applications! This year, we organized a number of team building and leadership development exercises while also getting to enjoy some outdoor activities during their reading week break.”
Students from around the province enjoyed snowshoeing to the top of Pic-a-Tenerif, which is a shark fin looking peak at 1,752 ft. of elevation. It provides a 360 degree view of Gros Morne and surrounding areas.
“The group really enjoyed snowshoeing, as it required a few of them to dig really deep as it was all uphill, which was a great team activity. We did the snowshoe hike as the conditions were not suited to skiing/snowboarding on this trip. Throughout the trip students worked in teams to do all tasks, such as prep meals or getting water from the pond. The experience was geared towards team building and leadership development, which, in my mind, every student took something valuable away from that they could use in all aspects of their lives,” Martin said.
He says the students take so much from these types of activities and many make some amazing friends along the way.
“The event involves a lot of planning and preparation, so there are no real big challenges except for a few sore muscles from the hike in to the cabin, which was solved by a bit of rest. On the other hand, we spend a fair bit of time on ice-breaker activities that help to break down communication barriers. Before long the participants realize that they have a lot of commonalities and begin to develop lasting friendships.”
Life-changing experience
Courtney Smith, a student of the Carpenter program offered by the School of Industrial Trades at CNA’s Clarenville campus, shares her experience. She had previously participated in the Pre-Orientation Wilderness Leadership Experience held last fall, and was also chosen to participate in the winter program.
Smith said, “The leadership experiences made available to CNA students have changed my life. I was fortunate to attend two camps so far, and I have learned a lot about others, but most importantly, more about myself. These experiences push you outside of your comfort zone and enable to reflect on strengths and weaknesses, which is amazing. It also encourages you to deal with situations that you wouldn’t normally do.
“There’s something beautiful and inspiring about 10 strangers coming together because of one common interest,” she added. “Then those same strangers becoming friends because of the wonderful and joyous experience they share in the woods without the distraction of technology to get in the way. I can only hope to be a part of another sometime down the road.”
According to Martin, the Winter Wilderness Leadership Camp is important because students learn valuable skills by taking part in everyday activities. Along with developing leadership skills, students also develop critical life skills, such as self-reliance, accountability, communication, and it also helps with the ultimate goal of self-advocacy.
“Besides providing a fun and relaxing learning atmosphere, this camp allows individuals the opportunity to unwind and recreate themselves, especially after mid-terms and the stress of school work.”
The program developer says he is receiving an increasing amount of positive feedback from students about the experience and how much it has changed their lives.
“These experiences are for everyone, and I really wish that we could open up the winter experience to more students over the next few years.”
To see more about the Winter Wilderness Leadership Camp, go to: https://youtu.be/cxm4npfvBZE
Media Contact:
Minal Abhange
PR Specialist
College of the North Atlantic