Outdoor Leadership Academy
Practical and Profound
The Outdoor Leadership Academy at Sun Valley Community School develops skills and imparts life lessons through exceptional outdoor experiences and professional training opportunities in Idaho.
The Outdoor Leadership Academy (OLA) is a three- or four-year program for Upper School students that develops the skills, experience, and certifications students need to lead outdoor trips professionally and fosters general leadership skills that can be transferred to any setting.
Though intensive, the program allows students to fulfill OLA-required coursework and trip requirements while also focusing adequate time and energy on academics and other interests.
OLA students choosing the Mountain and Rock specialty take advantage of unparalleled rock climbing opportunities in the area. Those who love to be “on belay” make at least half of their required OLA trips climbing-based and by graduation, will be able to build anchors using both passive and active protection, manage top ropes sites, plan and lead their own climbing trip, and co-lead a school based climbing trip. Opportunities also exist to join the American Mountain Guides Association, to take a Single Pitch Instructors Course, a Wilderness First Responder Course, and even to work as an intern for a mountain guiding service.
Students choosing Winter Backcountry Travel as his or her specialty will spend quality time learning in the splendid winter wilderness that surrounds Sun Valley Community School. Participants commit to making at least half of their required OLA trips to winter backcountry destinations. In addition, students complete a Level 1 Avalanche course, demonstrate proficiency in companion rescue, act as student leaders on at least one school winter trip, and plan and lead an additional ski trip. Other opportunities abound to gain proficiency in winter backcountry skills, including Level II Avalanche courses and Wilderness First Responder classes.
Sun Valley Community School is located in a state filled with countless wilderness areas and pristine mountain ranges allowing OLA Wilderness specialists the opportunity to spend time in both field and stream. Requirements include climbing at least two of Idaho’s significant peaks, working with Outdoor Program staff to prepare a class trip from A-Z, leading an OLA or Middle School backcountry hiking trip,completing at least two additional orienteering events, and taking a science or english elective related to wilderness study. Students may also complete a Wilderness First Responder course, take the school’s fly fishing course, take a NOLS course or equivalent, or become a Leave No Trace Master Educator. The Wilderness specialty takes students to the roof of our spectacularly beautiful state
Idaho is famous for its whitewater and OLA students choosing the River specialty learn to navigate the area’s rapids and placid stretches with confidence. This area of study requires students to have at least 4 of their required OLA activities be river trips, demonstrate proficiency maneuvering and managing a raft or kayak in moderate (Class III) whitewater, take an accredited river rescue course, be a co-leader on at least one of the school’s river based outdoor trips and plan and lead at least one river trip on your own in addition to the core requirement trip. In addition, River specialists may also take a River Guides course, complete a Wilderness First Responder course, and have opportunities to work as interns at local river companies.
The Outdoor Leadership Academy Curriculum is guided by these principles:
- Learning should be experiential in nature whenever possible.
- Learning should be project-based.
- Learning should have leadership training and opportunities embedded into it.
- Learning should incorporate plenty of opportunity for students to lead and do outdoor trips on their own.
- Learning should connect students with community resources.
- Learning should emphasize the high standards of trust, responsibility, and ethic needed for effective outdoor leadership.
- Learning should foster a sense of place and connect students to our landscape and community.
Outdoor Leadership Academy Requirements
The curriculum is divided into a core requirements section and four skill based sections. All students must complete the core requirements and, in addition, select and complete at least one skill-based section: Mountain and Rock, Wilderness Skills, Winter Backcountry Travel, or River. Students may join the Outdoor Leadership Academy as either Freshmen or Sophomores via an open admissions process however Outdoor Leadership Academy students must meet certain benchmarks by the end of each year to continue in the program.
- Remain in good academic standing. Two consecutive semesters of academic probation will trigger a review of the student’s participation in the Outdoor Leadership Academy
- Uphold the Community School’s Community standards. Serious violations will result in a review of the student’s participation in the OLA
- Complete the first year requirements
- Participate in at least 5 OLA activities each year
- Meet or exceed expectations on class outdoor trips
- Wilderness First Aid class
- CPR class
- Wilderness Navigation class
- Expedition Planning and Leadership class
- Leave No Trace Trainer class
- As a senior, co-lead at least one school trip
- Complete the requirements in at least one of the skill-based sections (see below)
- Keep a log of all outdoor trips
- Complete and present a wilderness resume and Capstone Project
Skill Based Section Requirements
- Have at least 4 of your OLA activities be climbing trips
- Be able to build anchors using passive and active protection.
- Be able to build anchors and manage top rope sites
- Be a student leader on at least one of the school’s climbing based outdoor trips
- Plan and lead at least one climbing trip on your own in addition to the core requirement trip
- Learn to lead climb safely and comfortably.
- Join the American Mountain Guides Association and take a Single Pitch Instructors course.
- Complete a Wilderness First Responder course.
- Work as an intern for a mountain guiding service.
- Have at least 4 of your required OLA activities be winter backcountry trips
- Take a Level 1 avalanche course
- Demonstrate proficiency in companion rescue
- Be a student leader on at least one of the school’s winter trips
- Plan and lead at least one ski trip on your own in addition to the core requirement trip
- Take a Level II avalanche class
- Complete a Wilderness First Responder course
- Lead one additional school trip (can be OLA or Middle School school trips).
- Work at barn and in Outdoor Program office to set up and break down one major Community School trip cycle.
- Compete in at least two additional Orienteering Events-outside of Wilderness Navigation Class.
- Climb at least two of Idaho’s significant peaks.
- Take one additional academic/elective course (Nature Writing, Ecology, Field Biology, Geology, American Environmental Literature, Nature Writing, Leadership, etc.).
- Take a NOLS or OB course or equivalent
- Take the school’s Fly Fishing Course
- Demonstrate proficiency in Hunting
- Take a Wilderness First Responder Course
- Become a LNT master educator
- Take additional academic courses pertaining to wilderness values
- Have at least four of your required OLA activities be river trips.
- Demonstrate proficiency maneuvering and managing a raft or kayak in moderate (Class III) whitewater.
- Take an accredited river rescue course.
- Be a co-leader on at least one of the school’s river based outdoor trips.
- Plan and lead at least one river trip on your own in addition to the core requirement trip.
- Take a River Guides course (ACA).
- Complete a Wilderness First Responder course.
- Work as an intern for a river company.
I am extremely grateful and appreciative to be able to participate in the Outdoor Leadership Academy. The program allows for students to become further involved and educated in the outdoors and plays a huge part in defining our school's mission.Addie '19
- To offer experiential, collaborative, reflective, and place-based opportunities for authentic leadership to complement and extend the school’s core values;
- To inspire ethical, responsible, and joyous 21st-century citizens whose leadership will make a difference in the world;
- To provide a program that develops the skills, certifications, and experience necessary to work professionally as an outdoor leader;
- To provide experiences that help students develop essential life skills, including:
- Preparation and organization
- Responsibility for themselves and others
- Resilience and perseverance
- A positive outlook
- Personal ethics
- To provide experiences that help students develop a lifelong relationship with wilderness environments and a deep appreciation for natural beauty;
- To provide experiences that help students experience meaningful personal growth.