Ireland’s third Leave No Trace Advanced Trainer course was delivered by Ben Lawhon, (Education Director for the Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder, Colorado) and Advanced Trainer Vincent McAlinden, from 23rd to 27th June in Petersburg, Clonbur, Co. Galway. The course is the highest level of Leave No Trace training and teaches participants the ‘hard skills’ like good campsite selection, appropriate human waste disposal as well as the ‘soft skills’ – which are the more ethical side of the Leave No Trace message, dealing with issues like behavior around wildlife, disturbance of natural and cultural items and social impacts.
The course objectives were to train participants how to deliver the Leave No Trace message in a non-judgmental, non-sanctimonious way and provided training and ideas to help teach the subject in a participatory, engaging way.
Being June in Ireland, there was an expectation that the week long course would be a cold, wet affair. Instead, the week in Petersburg was framed by magnificent weather and scenery. The course began with an introduction to Leave No Trace and how it originated. Vincent McAlinden, Advanced Trainer Instructor outlined the seven principles of Leave No Trace as well as the growing importance of the overarching principles surrounding outdoor ethics and leadership. The next three days were spent hiking and canoeing through the magnificent mountains and lakes of Joyce Country. Here, hands-on experience on each of the seven principles was instilled, as well as additional information on cultural awareness and communication.
The format of the educators’ course was excellent – each of the participants had to teach one of the principles to the rest of the group. At the end of each session, the group evaluated the lesson and provided feedback as to how the each educator could improve on their teaching techniques. As a result, all participants walked out experts in each of the principles and mindful of the different ways people learn about their surroundings and behaviours. The last day involved each participant designing an ongoing plan to ensure that principles learned would be incorporated in some way into our future work plans. Each of these work plans each member designed were outstanding and included actions to educating people about Leave No Trace through An Taisce Green Schools programme, to developing training through Scouting Irelands programmes and research collaboration through third level outdoor education programmes in Ireland. The newly qualified Advanced Trainers can now offer Leave No Trace Training courses and awareness sessions and train others in the Leave No Trace education programme in Ireland.
Ben Lawhon, commented on the course, “On my third trip to Ireland to offer a Leave No Trace Advanced Trainer course, I was greeted with the same level of enthusiasm and excitement for the programme that I was on my first visit in 2006. The recent course was excellent and involved an enthusiastic group of highly skilled educators who are excited about Leave No Trace and who now possess the skills and knowledge necessary to spread Leave No Trace information effectively. With 13 new Advanced Trainers in Ireland, the training capacity has increased substantially, which means that more and more Trainer courses and Awareness sessions can be facilitated. I’m confident that all course participants have the desire to spread the word about Leave No Trace and are poised to make a significant difference in the protection of Ireland’s landscape. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to come to Ireland to work with such a dedicated group of people who want to see the programme succeed. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ireland and hope that our collective efforts will benefit all those who enjoy the outdoors. This is a fantastic growing program really taking hold in the country and I look forward to seeing the programme grow over the coming year”.
Leave No Trace Ireland would like to extend an enormous thank you to Ben Lawhon for sharing his in depth experience and knowledge with the organisation over the course of his visit. Leave No Trace Ireland would also like to thank Portwest Retail for the sponsorship of Leave No Trace fleeces for the new Advanced Trainers.