Outdoors learning

At Work

Outward Bound instructor uses camping, hiking and canoeing to teach leadership skills

April 04, 2007|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Leanora Eubanks

Field instructor

Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound

Salary --$18,000

Age --25

Years on the job --Two

How she got started --While majoring in urban studies at Eastern University located outside Philadelphia, Eubanks took an Outward Bound program in Costa Rica. The three-month college course consisted of backpacking, white-water rafting, kayaking, hiking and scuba diving. Eubanks said it was a "really powerful" experience. Before she graduated, Eubanks applied for a job with Outward Bound in Baltimore, where she grew up. She began working there two days after graduation.

Typical day --From April to November, Eubanks instructs students in Outward Bound's five-day and 14-day programs. There are also one-day courses held in Leakin Park on the campus of Outward Bound. The program uses the outdoors as the setting for a leadership development curriculum where students, ages 11 to 17, camp, hike, canoe, backpack, climb and participate in team-building initiatives. Public and private schools send students to the program. Summer courses are available for $100 to students who are accepted into the program.

Her job is to go out with students backpacking the Appalachian Trail or canoeing the Potomac River. Last year Eubanks worked the five-day program, which included two days of prep work for her, five days of camping with the students and one day of wrap-up work. Her schedule consisted of working eight days straight with three days off. This year, she will work both the five-day and one-day programs.

Yearly schedule --Eubanks' schedule is similar to that of teachers, except she gets a winter break instead of a summer one. She starts work in early March, attending training classes and helping get things ready for the season, which runs from April to November.

Smooth trips --While Eubanks remembers plenty of "smooth" trips, a few others stand out as learning experiences. One trip started on a bad note after students were wrongly told they could bring their cell phones. Eubanks said half the kids went home early. "I've had courses where students are just not into it or they want to go home. You have to stay focused on what the course is about and what you want the kids to get out of it. You can't let it get into a power struggle. That's a big lesson I learned."

The good --Working with kids in a nontraditional environment. "It brings things out of them that you might not see in a traditional classroom."

The bad --Balancing her personal life and work life. "I'm still learning."

Critters at night --Eubanks has seen rattlesnakes, and some instructors have spotted bears. Encountered most often, however, are ticks.

Not a tour guide --Students learn how to do everything for themselves, including setting up camp, carrying the gear, cooking and breaking down camp. "We are teaching self-reliance; we're not there as tour guides. We show them how to do it and by the end they are hopefully running the course as a group."

Philosophy on the job --"Take time to nurture yourself. This can be hard when you're spending so much time taking care of others."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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