Leadership Learned on Wilderness Adventures

Keystone Science School is always focused on creating amazing experiences for students and campers. A common phrase among staff is “we change lives.” While this is a lofty statement we always work to create positive experiences, which are impactful long beyond program participation. Our adventure programs such as the Keystone Mountain Adventures and Keystone Voyagers have a unique opportunity to develop leadership skills which can be applied to almost all aspects of life.

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One of Keystone Science School’s newest staff members Logan Maclean has been working tirelessly developing new curriculum for our wilderness adventure programs aimed to help teens develop leadership skills as well as wilderness skills. This new leadership curriculum will be embedded into each Keystone Mountain Adventures and Keystone Voyagers program.

“What we went to emphasize is that it’s a leadership program and it’s a reminder that leadership is not just about leading from the front,” Logan said. At its core leadership is a facilitation of tasks to accomplish a goal, and there are many different aspects to leadership including self-leadership, feedback, and conflict resolution, all of which can be used throughout life.

Throughout each program, participants will have a chance to practice different aspects of leadership skills primarily in a group decision-making setting, and at the end of each program there will be a discussion around transference and how they can bring the skills they’ve learned on their adventure into the real world.

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“The learning really happens after the program when they start working for student council or applying for college. We’re really initiating a dialogue on how these skills transfer at the end of each program,” Logan said.

Logan also believes leadership is incident prevention, and he gave the following example as to why:

“If we’re going for a hike and it’s 1 p.m. and we’re at a saddle of a 12,000 feet peak and we can see the thunderheads building up in the background we know electrical activities going to be hitting us in an hour. I’m saying we have to go for the summit. That presents you with the opportunity to then say ‘No, I really think for these reasons we need to turn around, and it will be okay because we can always come back and do this again. Right now, it’s going to be the safest thing for us not to do this.’ And that’s leadership. That’s all these different elements coming together to make that happen.”

Another big aspect of the leadership curriculum is not only thinking about physical safety, but emotional safety as well by discussing how we can teach our leaders to be kind to each other and to themselves.

“Something we’ve been doing a really good job of in the industry for a really long time is how to put boots on to prevent blisters and how to put our backpacks on and how to prevent us from throwing out our backs. It’s not very often that we actually coach each other on how to share a tent space.” Logan said.

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Logan’s goal is to have the staff start conversations and threads of thinking that lead to leadership and initiative in challenging environments and spread them throughout the course.

“The wilderness is such a wonderful venue because we open our eyes and recognize the impacts that we have. This curriculum is really a result of 9 years of work experience and really thinking about what we can push students to do,” Logan said.