Paper History: Presented at the Association of College Unions, International Conference. Seminar #27 (a part of the "Move to the Great Outdoors" block). San Francisco, California, March 17-21, 1973.
Editor's Note: This one of the first papers which describes the operational components of a new approach to outdoor recreation programming, now known as Common Adventurerism.
An outdoor program offers wide based opportunities for physical, emotional,
and mental learning experiences in outdoor settings. These opportunities
have a simple organizational base which is oriented to a human need for
contact with nature where the individual can have real roles in decision
making processes. A group of these individuals involved in any outdoor
program activity become "common adventurers".
All the programs we have seen attempt to offer opportunities for a wide variety of physical, emotional and mental learning experiences in the wilderness or out-of-doors.
2. The same learning experiences usually have emotional overtones because there are elements of fear, anxiety, accomplishment, and ecstasy as well as possibilities for planning, seeking, and finally attaining highly personalized adventures.
3. Finally, these experiences are mentally meaningful to the individual
because they help him learn how to cope with complex changes in the natural
environment. They help a person become aware of general ecology and how
individuals and human societies may coexist with nature.
A young person is desirable because he or she will be able to identify easily with the participants, and is less likely to become an authority figure.
Furthermore, an interest in current educational innovations will serve to enhance those learning experiences which students expect and desire. Obviously, the coordinator should be rewarded with salary, credit and support from the student union. All of the existing successful programs have a coordinator who is fully accepted as a college staff member.
Regional and nationwide cooperation in the ACU-I , aimed at sharing ideas and programs, will stimulate more understanding.
Examples of cooperative group efforts which already exist include regional
and national outdoor program workshops and the Cooperative Wilderness Adventures,
for which a brochure is published twice yearly, that incorporates wilderness
outings throughout the West at all times of the year. One aim of these
continuous programs is to inspire programs at other schools. New activities
and programs of this type are being developed by the ACU-I Outdoor Program,
1. All problems related to the outdoor program are simple, understandable, and can be solved through common sense and cooperation. This assumption in practice leads to quick decisions based on present and predicted needs. The outdoor program tries to short-cut hurdles that complicate decision making. Therefore, the certification of leaders who later act as authoritarians is always rejected. Similarly, any attempts to bureaucratize the program are rejected.
2. We assume that since human beings evolved by adaptations to nature in the past, they can learn appropriate responses to nature in the present. At first, most of us are too dependent upon technology to respond appropriately when radically confronted with a "harsh" environment. its an example, most of us are conditioned to turn on a heat or go to a warm room if it gets cold outside. It is just as easy to put on more clothes or increase activity for warmth. People who have had opportunities to learn many responses to cold weather are better able to cope with that type of change. Outdoor programs provide some of these opportunities.
3. An individual is fully capable of making his own decision in natural environments where he has chosen the activity and situation. Leaders do not have to make decisions for others, nor is there a need for set decision making procedures in outdoor program activities. Everyone expressed his opinion and decisions are made which satisfy all members of a group. Every participant is a common adventurer, one who has aligned himself with others of similar interests.
4. If we are right in our assumptions that:
b. Humans are capable of learning and responding to environmental changes;
c. Individuals are fully capable of making their own decisions;
The University of Oregon Outdoor Program began its career in April, 1967, in a basement room of the Erb Memorial Union as a participant-initiated, rather than Union-initiated activity program. This form of genesis proved of lasting value to the Program. The participants provided a solid, reliable framework for the organization and a storehouse of energy for the fledgling program.
In July of 1970, the Idaho State University outdoor Program came into being. The outing club concept was no longer serving the needs of wilderness living people. Officers, memberships, dues and bureaucracy were limiting the Outing Club's ability to function as a flexible, free moving unit. on both campuses participants decided that if the program remained limited to a "club" operating for the benefit of an exclusive set of members, the new outdoor program would follow earlier examples and perish as a club's membership varied or found themselves too pressed by other activities.
2. Ultimately the student founders of the new programs hit upon a happy solution by attaching a large bulletin board to one wall and inventing the "trip sheet", which allowed all participants in one trip to become common adventurers. A trip sheet was to be completed and posted by anyone who wished to share ideas, transportation, or companionship for a wilderness experience. Normally, a few trip sheets were posted for weekdays and an increased quantity and variety were posted for the weekend. The range of trips resembled a pyramid whose base was composed of day hikes, beach outings, day long ski tours, and picnics. The point of the pyramid represented the occasional river or mountain expedition of a grand scale.
3. The benefits of trip sheet organization were many. Something was available for everyone since everyone directly planned the program by posting trip sheets. At this point, when participation greatly increased, a full-time coordinator became necessary to aid in creating vacation trips and summer outings of longer duration. When appointed the full-time coordinator was able to administer publicity equipment acquisition and maintenance, and initiate new programs activities as well.
The UO and ISU experience in the outdoor program indicates the coordinator
is most valuable in a supportive rather than commanding role. The program
feels the assumption of an authoritative role by the coordinator would
chill the free flow of student enthusiasm and become an inadequate substitute
for the spark of self-motivation.
2. A wide range of activities must be encouraged. Both indoor and easy outdoor sessions can provide a base for learning skills. A program should attempt to encourage year-round activities both near campus and in distant places.
3. A program must not be exclusive. At U.O. and I.S.U. students, townspeople, high school students, and any visitors may participate on an equal level as trip coordinators or participants. We have not developed a badge system to certify the qualifications of participants. We assume that all people will be honest about their level of skill, especially when they understand they are responsible for themselves.
4. The program must be economical for participants and for the school.
Only basic administrative materials are provided, such as brochures, calendars,
tools, instructional equipment, etc. Every participant pays for any expense
he incurs. For example, everyone pays his share of food, transportation,
and group equipment. He also provides his own equipment.
2. Teach and Lead Others. Not everyone is capable of leading, but some may have these traits latently. By developing confidence in certain skills, a participant in the outdoor program may soon wish to "turn on" others to his newly found joy in, say ski touring. Thus, a teacher and leader emerges.
3. Provide Co-educational Group Outings. All of the activities in the outdoor program are offered to men and women alike. Both participate in all stages of trip planning and preparation.
4. A participant must be able to select trips and activities according to his interest and ability. This is the crux of the program. People must have the option to choose outings that correspond to their interest and ability level.
5. The outdoor program must teach basic skills. Many activities
are potentially dangerous and require some knowledge on everyone's part.
By offering teaching sessions in activities such as rock climbing mountaineering,
camping, kayaking, canoeing, rubber boating, survival, and ski touring,
the program is assured that participants have had the opportunity to learn
at least the basic skills and safety precautions necessary for a pleasant
outing, People tend to pass on their newly acquired skills to other interested
newcomers. This revolving instruction perpetuates itself and leaders emerge
2. The student alone is able to judge adequately his or her skills and ambition. Also, they tend to seek the advice or more experienced participants.
3. The value of any wilderness experience derives from taking opportunities
to experience the ecstasy of self-responsibility and self-realization,
which cannot be instilled from any outside source.