Apr 252010
Authors: Erin Udell

Ever wished CSU awarded credit for hacking it in the wild?

That’s now an option, thanks to CSU’s new one-credit course: Basic Outdoor Skills, FW111.

The first class of its kind in the nation, FW111 will offer students of all majors the opportunity to learn valuable outdoor skills while also enjoying recreational activities including fishing, kayaking and horseback riding.

Since the 1980s, there has been a significant decline in outdoor participation, including a 23 percent drop in outdoor activity among teenagers and young adults, according to the Wildland Awareness and Educational Institute. In response to this decline, the WAEI created an outdoor skills pilot workshop aimed toward CSU students.

Following positive feedback from 2009 workshop participants, who took the course for a test run in October, the new course was added to the university’s curriculum for the fall 2010 semester in hopes of raising awareness of natural resources.

Junior fish, wildlife and conservation biology major Nicole McDaniel, who participated in the 2009 workshop, said she was astounded by the quality of the hands-on instruction as well as the overall experience.

“It was great for networking and just learning about things that you can’t get in a classroom,” McDaniel said.

FW111, taught through the college of fish and wildlife biology, is expected to offer students useful skills as well as countless employment opportunities. Susanne Roller, the co-founder of the WAEI, said that there is no better time than right now to become involved in outdoor programs.

“Five years from now is when close to 50 percent of field staff nationwide is expected to retire,” Roller said.

With these new vacancies, state and federal departments will struggle to find applicants with sufficient outdoor training.

Kenneth Wilson, a CSU professor and department head of the Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology program, acknowledged the field’s job availability but also stressed the importance of making the program available to all students.

“We’re losing touch with the outdoors. Most of the students will have a natural resource background, but many people from metropolitan areas don’t have this background,” Wilson said.

The prospect of bringing the outdoors to those who never had the chance to experience it is exciting for many people involved in the creation of the program, including Wilson.

“My favorite part is just the excitement of seeing it get off the ground and seeing something that students will find useful,” he said.

The one-credit elective class consists of two lecture and discussion sessions held before and after a hands-on workshop. The discussions will focus on some of the history, and the professions in, the field of wildlife and conservation biology while the weekend-long workshop will help students learn outdoor skills.

Each workshop includes 24 classes ranging from outdoor photography to wilderness survival training and takes place on Peaceful Valley Ranch near Estes Park.

Staff writer Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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