Practical Outdoor Skills


Course Syllabus










Found - Use of a GPSDepartment of Sports Science & Physical Education - Idaho State University




Course: Practical Outdoor Skills
(PE 2281 )

Semester: Fall & Spring Semesters (Half Semester)


Time:  Tuesdays & Thursdays, 3:00-4:30

Place: Rendezvous Building


Instructor:  Justin Dayley




No text is required for the course.




Study and application of knowledge and skills common to most outdoor activities, and ways in which such skills can be integrated in school, youth and adult activity programs. Practical outdoor knots, map and compass, sheltering strategies, outdoor emergencies, safety procedures, minimal impact techniques, and outdoor team building.



The Sports Science and Physical Education Department’s Outdoor Education curriculum at Idaho State is based on a foundation of five national recognized standards.  The following standards apply to this course:  Standard 1 (Content Knowledge), Standard 3 (Safety and Minimal Impact), and Standard 5 (Experiential Skill and Field Experience).




Outdoor Skill Activity Definition: Outdoor education can be simply defined as experiential learning in, for, or about the outdoors. The term ‘outdoor education’, however, is used quite broadly to refer to a range of organized activities which take place in a variety of ways in predominantly outdoor environments. Outdoor recreation or outdoor activity is leisure pursuits engaged in outside, especially in (but not limited to) natural or semi-natural settings out of town. Examples include adventure racing, backpacking, bicycling, camping, canoeing, caving, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, mountaineering, photography, adventure park, rock climbing, running, sailing, skiing, and surfing. The two primary purposes for outdoor recreation are beneficial use and pleasurable appreciation.

Outdoor Skill History Summary:   Modern outdoor education owes its beginnings to a number of separate initiatives. Organized camping was evident in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in Europe, the UK, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. The Scouting movement, established in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell, employs non-formal education with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities. The first Outward Bound centre at Aberdovey in Wales was established during the Second World War. The Forest schools of Denmark are examples of European programs with similar aims and objectives.
      A key outdoor education pioneer was Kurt Hahn, a German educator who founded schools such as the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, Gordonstoun School in Scotland, Atlantic College in Wales, the United World Colleges movement, the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (which emphasizes community service, craftsmanship skills, physical skill, and outdoor expeditions), and the Outward Bound movement.
       The second half of the twentieth century saw rapid growth of outdoor education in all sectors (state, voluntary, and commercial) with an ever-widening range of client groups and applications. In this period Outward Bound spread to over 40 countries around the world, including the USA in the 1960s. Other US based outdoor education programs include Project Adventure and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Project Adventure focuses on day use of ropes courses. NOLS uses the outdoor setting to train leaders for outdoor programs and for other settings including training every new US astronaut and 10% of the US Naval Academy. The Association for Experiential Education is a professional association for "experiential" educators. The Wilderness Education Association (WEA) is a consortium of college outdoor education programs with a standard curriculum based on an academic model.

Outdoor Skill Philosophy Summary:  Beneficial use is related to the physical and social rewards which goal-directed activities instills in individuals or groups. Goal-directed outdoor activities are predominately physical, though they may also be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually rewarding. The outdoors as a physical or social setting may meet the needs of physical health, self-sufficiency, risk-taking, the building of social ties (including teambuilding), and the needs of achievement (such as practicing, enhancing and challenging skills, testing stamina and endurance, and seeking adventure or excitement). The outdoors can be an environment in which people "show what they can do".
      Pleasurable appreciation encourages experiences of being "let in on natures show". Enhancement of inner perceptual and/or spiritual life may be experienced through outdoor activities and outdoor-related activities such as nature study, aesthetic contemplation, meditation, painting, photography, archeological or historical research, and indigenous culture among others. These activities may also be physically rewarding.
Many people in modern civilizations believe that the value of nature is found only in its "utilitarian value" (beneficial use). They would discount the inner perceptual and/or spiritual benefits of the "intrinsic value of nature" that may be experienced during pleasurable appreciation.
Outdoor activities may also be pursued for the purposes of finding peace in nature, enjoying life, and relaxing. They are alternatives to expensive forms of tourism. Outdoor activities are also frequently used as a medium in education and teambuilding.



The Practical Outdoor Skills class is made up of two broad components:  leadership theory and hands-on outdoor skills instruction.  Classroom work takes up the first of the class and consists of information about organizing and coordinating activities in an outdoor setting.  Topics covered include leadership styles, group dynamics, teaching styles, facilitation techniques, adventure game programming, ethics, gender issues, liability, lesson plans, safety, and emergency procedures. During the second half of the class, the course work becomes more hands on, and students will have an opportunity to practice basic outdoor skills.



Objective 1 (Academic Objective): To gain an understanding of the knowledge and skills common to most outdoor activities and ways in which such skills can be integrated in school, youth and adult activity programs. 

Objective 1 Learning Outcomes - By the end of the course, students will:

1a. Be able to tie 7 useful outdoor knot and explain the application of each.
1b. Be able to list the seven principles of Leave No Trace and describe when to apply them.
1c. Be able to explain three types of adventure games and at what point in group development each type of game is useful.
1d. Be able to explain two facilitation models and describe each of the steps in the models.


Objective 2 (Academic Objective):  To develop an outdoor activity lesson plan that could be used to lead an activity for a school, youth or adult activity program.

Objective 2 Learning Outcomes – By the end of the course, students will:
2a. Select an appropriate non-traditional outdoor activity to develop a lesson plan
2b. Be able to write a outdoor activity lesson plan in the required format and explain why each part of the lesson plan is important.
2c. List references from which supportive material was used to develop the outdoor activity lesson plan.


Objective 3 (Motor Skill Objective):  To develop basic motor skills in practical outdoor skills common to most outdoor activities.

Objective 3 Learning Outcomes – By the end of the course, students will .
3a. Demonstrate the ability to complete a map and compass course.
3b. Demonstrate the ability to light a fire using primitive fire making techniques and construct cordage using natural materials. 
3c. Demonstrate the basic kayaking skills, including forward paddling, draw strokes, buddy rescue and wet exit.
3d. Demonstrate how to cook using Dutch oven and explain why heat control is important.
3e. Demonstrate the ability to use the Reed Gym climbing wall and explain why each of the safety policies established by the gym is important.
3f. Demonstrate the ability to use the Alpine Tower challenge course and explain why each of the safety policies established by the tower is important.




Grades for this course are determined by using a point system.  The final grade is reached by adding points from three components:


Total Number of Points Possible:  100 pts

Grading Example: As an example of how grades are determine, let’s say that a student in the course attends 14 out of the possible 16 total class sessions; and they receive 20 pts. on the lesson plan, and 20 pts. on the written final.  Here’s how the grade would be calculated:

  • Attendance and Participation  14 x 3.125 =  43.75 pts.
  • Skill Assessment  20 pts.
  • Written Final  20 pts.

Total Points:  43.75 + 20 + 20 = 90
Percentage Grade: 90 / 100 =  90%
Letter Grade - Using the ISU grading scale (below):  A-


A         93-100             C+       78-80               D-        63-65
A-        90-92.9            C         75-77               F          62-below
B+       87-89               C-        72-74
B         84-86               D+       69-71
B-        81-83               D         66-68



If you have a diagnosed disability or believe that you have a disability that might require “reasonable accommodation” on the part of the instructor, please call the Director, Center of Services for Students with Disabilities, 282-3599. As a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is the responsibility of the student to disclose a disability prior to requesting reasonable accommodation. 





Course Segment

Topics / Skills

Objectives and Learning Outcomes

March 12

Introduction, lesson plans

Objectives 2
Learning Outcomes: 2a, 2b, 2c

March 14


Objectives 1, 2
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 2a, 2b

March 19

Adventure activities

Objectives 1, 2
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 2a, 2b

March 21


Objectives 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1a, 1c, 1d, 2a, 2b, 3e

March 26


Objectives 1
Learning Outcomes: 1a, 1d

March 28

Leave no Trace ethics

Objectives 1
Learning Outcomes: 1b, 1d,

April 2


Objectives 1
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 3c

April 4


Objectives 1, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 3b

April 9

Map and Compass

Objectives 1, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 3a

April 11


Objectives 1, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1a, 1d, 3b

April 16

Dutch oven cooking

Objectives 1, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 3d

April 18

Primitive fire

Objectives 1, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 3f

April 23

Alpine Tower

 Objectives 1, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 3f

April 25

Alpine Tower

 Objectives 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1a,, 1b, 1c 1d, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e, 3f

April 30

Review for Final

Objectives 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1a,, 1b, 1c 1d, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e, 3f

May 2

Final Exam

Objectives 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1a,, 1b, 1c 1d, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e, 3f

Aim High: Idaho State University Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education Links:


Outdoor Education Major

Outdoor Minor Information

Questions & Answers

Brief Descriptions of Outdoor Classes

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