The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 91: Bay Area Wilderness Training, part 1

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

ROGER MILLER: It's kind of like a teach-a-man-to-fish model of developing outdoor youth environmental education programs.

STEVE: This week on The WildeBeat; part 1 of Bay Area Wilderness Training.

[Intro Music & SFX; 0:07.6 and under]

News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number ninety one, produced with your support and membership donations.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

[Intro Music: 0:04.5 ends]

STEVE: Earlier this year, in our show number seventy three, we heard from Nina Roberts, Ph.D., an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

NINA ROBERTS: A smaller proportion of the population of the US visiting wilderness and outdoor areas are ethnic minorities. ...but it's changing as more people become interested, educated and desire to travel and learn about and experience outdoor areas.

STEVE: This is the next in a series of follow-up stories on diversity in wilderness users. In these editions, we'll take a look at people who are making a difference in bringing a wilderness experience to under-served groups.

[SFX: Campsite background]

STEVE: I'm at the Cherry Lake car campground, in the Stanislaus National Forest, just outside of Yosemite National Park. I'm surrounded by a busy group of men and women. They're a diverse group, both in their in ethnicities, and ages. They're busy packing gear and food in preparation for several days of backcountry camping. They're all students in the Wilderness Leadership Training program taught by the non-profit organization, Bay Area Wilderness Training, or BAWT, as they often call it. Roger Miller is their executive director.

ROGER MILLER: Bay Area Wilderness Training provides training service as well as access to gear resources for youth development professionals here in Northern California... Most of the folks that we're working with are working with youth service agencies, so these are adults that we're training. We're training camp counselors and group home staff and gang violence prevention program folks. Folks who are teachers and who are working with some population of especially at-risk or under-privileged youth. We're training them how to get their youth out on trips, and then providing them with a bunch of the other resources that they need to get their youth out on backpacking and camping trips.

STEVE: Roger stands back and watches everyone working around him. My first impression was that, he doesn't even act like he's in charge. Hector Nuno seems to be directing the activities of one of the two groups.

HECTOR NUNO: We had a lot of equipment, the food, we had to organize the food, we had to organize the equipment, to separate, because we had two groups, and all the equipment was in a single pile, and so we had to organize that -- it was hard for me to tell people that I don't know to do things, but ...the group was very nice. They helped with everything and we were able to do everything on time, ...everything worked out fine.

STEVE: Hector, why did you sign up for this outing?

HECTOR NUNO: Well, it's all about the youth. I'm hoping to get the right training so I can take my youth out in the wilderness.

HECTOR NUNO: For instance, I have like one kid who came from broken families, divorced parents, they express their inside feelings in so may ways. Some of them they use drugs. I've seen my kids carry knives, and they try to be away of education. They try to do something else instead of doing homework. So you're talking about these kids that don't have good grades. ...They want to put their mind on something else; something, I guess, not related to education. That's why I want to do this, so they can, I can make them set their mind on something positive -- education and also in nature.

[SFX: Tent pitching]

STEVE: After the chaotic process of packing food and group gear, it's time for everybody to try pitching their tents for the first time. Nobody lectures them about it. Mostly, the students seem to be teaching each other.

ROGER MILLER: ...The great thing about the way the Wilderness Leadership Training course is set up is that we essentially teach some of the basic hard skills -- map and compass, how do you purify water, how do you pack; those kinds of things -- and then we point at two people, "you and you, you're on. You get us from point A to point B on this map. Go. You're leading us." Now those two youth development professionals are leading the group, and they have to deal with all of the rest of the group as if they were a bunch of sixteen-year-olds, and deal with a wide variety of scenarios and role-plays that we throw at them. Our job really is to help coach and manage the overall groups so that everyone can succeed. If that means that we partner somebody who has less skills with somebody who has more skills that they can learn directly from, then that's what we do.

STEVE: But then the time comes for a lecture. BAWT's program director, Chelsea Griffie takes the stage.

CHELSEA GRIFFIE: I want to get going. So, your sleeping bag often comes in a really large bag. You need to make it smaller right. So, we don't have small stuff sacks because stuff sacks are expensive and we can't just buy a hundred of them, so what we often have people do, you should put your sleeping bag in a plastic bag, you know, because that would really suck if your sleeping bag got wet. And know if you have any kind of water issues, it's probably just a good idea to keep it in a plastic bag... The technique that I use for these bags to kind of get it in there and lock off the air, and then just start squishing, and let the air out a little at a time. So that by the time you're done, it's as small as it can be and there's no more air that's going to get in there.

[Fade Chelsea to background]

ROGER MILLER: ...But we also teach them a lot of the soft skills that they need: How do you deal with risk management in the wilderness? how do you deal with group management? It's a lot different out in the wilderness than it is in a classroom -- or in a group home where it's a relatively contained environment. There are different kinds of dangers, there are different kinds of things that you need to look out for. What are you going to do with a kid who takes off his backpack and throws it down and says, "I'm not going anywhere anymore." You have to be able to deal with the whole different set of kinds of challenges for the youth that these youth workers work with.

[Fade Chelsea out]

STEVE: The next morning, they pack everything up for their first day on the trail.

STEVE: So is it all going to fit, Hector?

HECTOR NUNO: I have today's lunch and dinner, so it is a very, very heavy load. Cause I have tomatoes, avocados, cheese, so I have the heavy stuff. And the good thing is that we're going to have lunch pretty soon, so that's going to eliminate a lot of weight. But yeah, it is a challenge. It's very, very, very heavy. Very heavy.

JUDY KUANG: Everything's in there where it's supposed to be, but the weight is another issue. I estimate it's at least twenty-some pounds, or more. Cause with all the water, the canister, and our tents, it really adds up.

STEVE: Judy Kuang is from San Francisco. She's a youth coordinator for the for the Chinatown Community Development Center.

JUDY KUANG: Well the kids I serve live in Chinatown, single room occupancy, SROs, so they're really small rooms, eight by ten rooms. ...Whole family. You have four people most of the time because of family, parents, childrens. Bunk beds, or even just sleeping on the floor, kitchen in that room, you share a bathroom, you share the shower room... you don't have any privacy at all. That's how it is living in the single rooms. ...So, and most of the time is what they do after school that they stay home, watch T.V., do computer, nothing really a lot because most of them living there are immigrants, or are just too shy to walk or to be out, hanging out with their friends, or doing other after school activities...

[Crossfade to hiking background]

STEVE: So what happens to our teachers on the trail? How does BAWT finish the process of turning them into qualified wilderness guides? We'll join them in part two of Bay Area Wilderness Training.

[Fade out background]

STEVE: As a matter of disclosure, I should say that Bay Area Wilderness Training is an independent sister project to the WildeBeat, also under the Earth Island Institute.

[Closing Music: 0:10 and under]

Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. You can help assure future editions of this free service; please click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number ninety one. Thank you for listening.

[Closing Music: ends.]

Next time -- part 2 of Bay Area Wilderness Training.

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