How NOLS is reopening courses responsibly in the field
Testing newly developed protocols for COVID-19
Posted on 18.06.2020
In late May, a group of seven NOLS instructors spent three nights in the mountains testing NOLS’ newly developed protocols for COVID-19—figuring out how to cook meals, hold classes, and build community while wearing masks and remaining 6 feet apart.
This group hiked through meadows studded with wildflowers that merged into late-season snow while using trekking poles to maintain distance, set up hand washing stations in each camp and used them—frequently—and tested out individual sleeping arrangements using tarps and bug netting.
Though many of the routines of the course were different than normal, by the end of the trip, the group showed that it was still possible to support the outcomes NOLS aims for on an expedition—that students learn to assume leadership roles, care for themselves and others, and connect with natural spaces (see NOLS Learning Goals & Objectives).
Highlights of the protocols
Some of the highlights of the protocols NOLS is implementing (find these practices in greater detail on the website.)
- Managing risks before students arrive by requesting they monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, frequently wash their hands, and practice social distancing for 2 weeks prior to the course
- Staging students at remote sites when they arrive and depart from their courses, to prevent disease spread in the local community
- While on course, conducting daily health checks, practicing social distancing, wearing masks when social distancing isn’t practical, and sleeping in individual arrangements rather than shared tents
- If someone on the course experiences symptoms, we have plans in place to separate that individual from the group and seek further medical advice.
The pandemic has limited access in so many ways: access to personal connections and access to the natural world. People have, by necessity, moved indoors and onto screens. Now, more than ever, a NOLS course can provide people tangible connection, real physical challenge, and a true experiential education.
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