If you like the outdoors, you've come to the right place. The mission of the NMH Outdoor Education Program (OEP) is to enrich the athletic, residential, and academic programs at NMH by providing adventure and instruction in exploring the outdoors. The Outdoor Team (OT) and outdoor outreach activities lead students to new levels of personal responsibility and achievement as well as an appreciation of the natural world. OEP instructors are further charged with infusing their students with skills and enjoyment that promote different outdoor pursuits as lifelong recreational opportunities.
The foundation of the outdoor program is the NMH Outdoor Team (ATC 317), which meets fall and spring terms. The OT satisfies the athletic team and cocurricular requirements in the term it is taken. Activity concentrations include instruction for canoeing, mountain biking, road biking, and stand up paddle boarding. Competitive events include participation in off-road triathlons, canoe racing, and mountain biking.
Community service is also a component of the OT syllabus with an annual contribution to the Source to Sea Connecticut River Clean-Up. From time to time, the OT helps out at the NMH farm when many hands are needed for projects such as springtime sap collection.
The outdoor program is also active in the winter term with a Winter Outdoor Class (PEC 312) meeting on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Featured activities in this class include fat biking, ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. This class provides cocurricular and physical education class credits.
The OEP plays a significant role with orientation, leadership, and student activity opportunities at NMH. At the beginning of each school year the ninth- and 10th-grade orientation programs revolve around activities in the outdoor world. Ninth and 10th graders enjoy a variety of activities designed to encourage individual and class bonding, such as cardboard boat building, an introduction to canoeing, low-ropes initiatives, and a campus-wide eco-photographic challenge. These two orientations also provide a significant leadership opportunity for many of the school’s Resident Leaders, who have been trained to contribute to these field days.
The OEP also plays a major role in facilitating the annual Mountain Day for the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes. The OEP and OT maintain and mark the section of the New England Scenic Trail used by these classes, as well as risk-management overview and supervision on the day of the hike.
In support of NMH academic and residential life programs, the OEP designs and facilitates initiatives requested by classes such as Humanities I and Social Entrepreneurship, as well as assisting student activities with the dorm intramural program. Additionally, the OEP provides summer experiential learning opportunities for students enrolled in programs such as the Summer Orientation and Academic Retreat (SOAR), Advancing Scholars and Leaders (ASL), and Upward Bound.
Equipment and Clothing
NMH provides all of the equipment needed to participate safely with the outdoor team and the specialized activity classes. Industry-approved equipment such as canoes, personal flotation devices, dry suits, climbing ropes, harnesses, snowshoes, and sleeping bags are provided for student use. Students are required to be adequately equipped with clothing and footwear as advised for the season.
While OEP classes emphasize adventure, exploration, and fun, safety is the foundation on which all activities are built. Two instructors accompany each off-campus activity. At least one of the instructors will have an advanced medical certification such as Wilderness First Responder. Instructors carry a cell phone and first aid kit on all off-campus trips, and each mountain bike instructor also carries a two-way radio. All instructors are committed to an OEP policy and protocols agreement that promotes safety-first considerations in all decision making.
Outdoors and PE/A
The OEP is administered as part of the physical education and athletics (PE/A) department. OEP instruction is provided by a program director/instructor and an instructor, both of whom are members of the PE/A department. Both instructors are graduates of the yearlong Outdoor Leadership Program at Greenfield Community College and hold current certifications from organizations such as the American Canoe Association and Wilderness Medical Associates. The outdoor instructors are assisted from time to time by faculty with activity-specific experience and expertise.
Specialized outdoor classes satisfy the PE/A course requirement in the term they are taken.
All outdoor instruction at NMH shares a common philosophy of promoting a connection to the land, and a respect for the natural world and one another.