Today I joined the ranks of Leave No Trace (LNT) Master Educators. I graduated with 8 others from a 5-day course conducted at the Steel Creek area of Buffalo National River (BNR) by 2 trainers from the Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics. The cost of this training is typically in the $650-900 range but a grant from the Walton Family Foundation covered all our costs so that is greatly appreciated by all.
Of the 8 other participants, 5 were National Park Service staff from various parts of the BNR, 1 works for a canoe outfitter, and 2 are from volunteer organizations. I already knew 4 of them to some degree. Many of these courses are apparently taught during backpacking or float trips but ours was relatively stationary. We camped at the Steel Creek campground and did our coursework there, while hiking the nearby Buffalo River Trail, or at a building near the visitor center. We started about 9 AM and often worked until about 7:30 PM, with about an hour of down time in the late afternoon.
The purpose of the Master Educator course is to prepare people not only to teach LNT but also to teach others to teach LNT. While there is a deep dive into the 7 Principles, most of the time is spent on teaching methods with lots of games, storytelling, demonstrations, discussions, and skits. Each participant prepared and presented a 10-15 minute lesson on one of the Principles and then another participant and the 2 trainers critiqued them. I think we were all pretty nervous but everybody was very supportive of each other so that helped. It was a great experience overall and I think I’ll be a much more effective advocate of Leave No Trace.