Princeton University Outdoor Action Program Leader Trainer Manual

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Princeton University Outdoor Action Program

Leader Trainer Manual

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Copyright © Princeton University Outdoor Action Program




An Overview of Leader Training
Philosophy & Goals of Leader Training 3

The Leader Training Course 4

The Leader Training Committee 5

The Leader Training Trip
Pretrip Planning 7

Teaching Opportunities for Trainees 9

Full Value Contracts 10

First Day on the Trail 11

Leaders of the Day 12

Walkouts 14

Post-Trip 14

Core Competencies 16


Simulations as a Leader Training Tool

Why do Simulations? 22

Protocols 22

Ethics 23

Role of Participants 23

Role of Leader Trainers 24

Required & Optional Sims 25

Simming Emergency Procedures 25

How Many Sims? 27

Realism 27

Catching the Sim Game 28

Tone on an LTT 29


Experiential Learning 30

Why Debrief? 31

What, So What, Now What? 32
Teaching Debriefing 34

Debriefing Simulations 35

Timing Debriefs 36

Sample Questions for Leaders of the Day 37

Sample Questions for Final Debriefs 37

101 Ways to Enhance a Debrief 38


An Overview of Leader Training


Leading Training serves many purposes within Outdoor Action. It stands on its own as a challenging wilderness educational experience designed to encourage personal growth and leadership development. It is the program through which OA trains new 3-season backpacking leaders. It is important to provide a high level of skill training to the leaders-in-training so that they may be qualified to lead trips on their own in the future. Finally, it is important to provide advanced skill training for current leaders who may then become new Leader Trainers. The Leader Training Program also offers opportunities for the Leader Trainers themselves to develop as leaders and as teachers.

The goal of the Leader Training Program is to teach the requisite outdoor and trip planning skills to allow interested persons to lead Outdoor Action trips. Outdoor Action Leaders have many roles to fill: An OA Leader is an outdoors person, first aid care giver, facilitator, decision-maker, role model, friend, and group member all at once. Some of the required skills are well-defined and easily grasped, such as lighting a stove. Others, including accidents and group dynamics, are much more abstract, involving simultaneous application of good judgment, principles, protocols, and the confidence born of experience. Both abstract and concrete skills require instruction and practice. The program is designed as an opportunity to learn and practice the leadership tasks performed on a regular OA 3-season backpacking trip.

The Leader Training Program relies on experiential learning as its primary teaching method. Through HEART Wilderness First Aid, the Facilitator’s and Group Dynamics Workshops, and the Leader Training Course, participants learn the technical and the leadership and group dynamics skills required to lead backpacking trips.

The Leader Training Trip (LTT) gives participants an opportunity to put this knowledge into practice in a small-group setting. The LTT attempts to model other wilderness experiences like the OA Frosh Trip, so that trainees acquire the practical experience they need to lead such trips. On the LTT, Leader Trainers create an environment of suitable challenges through which they guide participants in developing their leadership, group facilitation and teaching skills. The LTT group reflects upon and learns from these experiences through debriefing. The LTT is the culmination of the Leader Training Program. Trainees who successfully complete the LTT should be prepared to lead a group of freshman, many of whom have new been backpacking before, in the backcountry and to create a positive orientation experience for each and every freshman on their trip.


The following are requirements for becoming an OA Leader. First Aid and all of the Workshops must be completed before the Leader Training Trip.

  • HEART Wilderness First Aid & CPR: evening course taught by OA Leaders

  • Facilitator’s Workshop: half-day workshop on campus

  • Leadership & Group Dynamics Workshop: half-day workshop on campus

  • Leader Training Course: series of 5 evening workshops on outdoor skills

  • Leader Training Trip: a 6-day OA Backpacking trip that teaches outdoor leadership skills

  • Van Driver Training (optional but highly recommended)


Being an OA Leader is a significant responsibility, and in order to ensure that all OA Leaders have acquired the skills to handle this responsibility, leaders-in-training must complete all of the Leader Training requirements. Training to become an OA Leader is a considerable time commitment. This time commitment may deter some interested student from doing Leader Training. It is partly the responsibility of the Leader Trainers to actively recruit potential leaders by talking to their frosh, encouraging their trainees to recruit their own frosh, running an OA booth at open houses throughout the year, and putting up fliers around campus.

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