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Ashton Nichols / For The Post
Time to learn outside the classroom — literally.
Among the well-hidden courses offered at Ohio University is REC 1000 — Wilderness Living Skills. Combining in-class curriculum and a weekend trip, Wilderness Living Skills is a one-credit hour, two-week class that immerses students in a learning, camping and backpacking experience.
The course is taught mainly by graduate students, including Keaton Welch, a graduate student studying recreation studies. Welch is responsible for teaching students about basic camping systems, such as how to find the best shelter, how to build a fire and how to plan food menus for a trip.
“I love teaching the basic camping skills because if you want to go into different pursuits, it sets a baseline for all those skills,” Welch said. “Even if you're kayaking, you're still going to have to camp somewhere, and you're still going to have to know what kind of gear to wear.”
Welch focuses his curriculum on a “Ten Essential Systems” outline, inspired by Outdoor Basics by Recreational Equipment, Inc., or REI. Those systems include fire, hydration (water), navigation, nutrition (food), emergency shelter, insulation, first-aid supplies and more.
But those systems are useless without instructors like Welch who explain how to find and use them.
“But once you teach people how to take care of themselves, they can live and not just survive.”– Rob Warner
“The most important part of all these systems is it's good if you have it, but you need to know how to use it as well,” Welch said. “Having the newest, coolest fire starter from REI isn't going to help you if you don't know how to use it.”
The course is also offered during spring semester for students who wish to experience the expedition in January and is titled REC 1005 — Winter Wilderness Living Skills.
Rob Warner, a graduate student studying recreation studies, finds the winter course more fulfilling because the trails are less populated and there is occasionally snow, but he also struggles with finding students who aren’t intimidated by the course.
“I suppose the perceived challenge is if you don't have good systems to manage your own safety,” Warner said. “I think people assume they will freeze to death. But once you teach people how to take care of themselves, they can live and not just survive.”
The in-class curriculum for the winter course differs significantly from the basic class, Warner said. Students are taught to evaluate the added risk factors that come with traveling in winter conditions, such as the need for additional, warm clothing and the heightened calorie requirement after exhausting energy.
Warner’s main goal is to get across the importance of preparing properly for an expedition.
“The idea of planning and how important that is to a successful expedition … I find that to be the most important with backcountry travel,” Warner said.
Destiny Campbell, a senior studying outdoor recreation and education, accompanies graduate students like Welch and Warner on the trips as a teaching assistant. While she joins them in teaching the importance of basic camping and backpacking techniques, she actually believes the most important skill is communication.
“We do teach those things, and they are really important, but if you're not a recreation major ... (unless) you really wanted to go camping, those skills wouldn't really apply to your everyday life,” Campbell said.
Whereas in some classes, students can avoid asking questions or participating, this REC course requires students to speak up, Campbell said.
“We focus on why communication is important and how it affects us in our daily lives, especially in the backcountry where you don't have resources,” Campbell said. “Their wants and their needs … have to be expressed.”
REC 1000 was named the most obscure class by the OU student population, a title that Welch agrees with.
“This is kind of like a ‘you either know about it or you don't know about it’ kind of thing, ” Welch said. “It's usually the best kept secret.”
Illustration by: Sarah Olivieri / For The Post
Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor