March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Interview with Aaron Gilbert, Program Director at Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT)

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Eric Lewis

I was recently able to catch up with Aaron Gilbert from Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) to find out more about his organization.

Eric: Tell us about Bay Area Wilderness Training.

Aaron: Our mission is to create opportunities for urban you to connect with nature first hand. To achieve this goal we utilize a train-the-trainer model, and since 1999 we have provided outdoor leadership training for over 1,200 teachers and youth workers. In addition to the outdoor skills and leadership development that teachers get from our courses, we also provide free access to borrow camping equipment, outdoor clothing, and all the essentials groups need for camping from our gear libraries. In 14 years we have grown from training 20-40 youth workers and supporting trips for 100-300 youth to training close to 200 youth workers and enabling 6,000 youth to experience nature first hand per year.

GilbertEric: What sort of outdoor skills and leadership development do you provide?

Aaron: We offer two types of outdoor leadership, Frontcountry Leadership and Wilderness Leadership Training. On both of these courses teachers will learn about risk management, group management, campsite setup, kitchen setup, meal planning and preparation, and maps and navigation. We utilize best practices in experiential education and give our students opportunities to learn, practice, and teach new skills.  We also teach the skills using methods teachers can easily adapt and use with their students.

Eric: What is the difference between Frontcountry and Wilderness?

Aaron: Frontcounty is sometimes more commonly referred to as car camping. This is when you drive up to a campsite and camp within site of your vehicle.  Campsites are usually in larger campgrounds with facilities such as potable water, bathrooms, and rangers or docents. The vast majority of camping trips led by our leaders are front country. Wilderness is when you pack up all of your food, clothing, and camping equipment in a backpack and hike a mile or more from your vehicle. Often you are camping in primitive sites without potable water or bathrooms.

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For the purposes of our trainings, the Frontcountry Leadership Training is a two-day, one night camping course. All participants attend a pre-trip meeting the week before the course to visit our offices and learn how to checkout equipment from our gear library. This is an ideal course for anyone who is either very new to camping or wants to start camping as soon as possible with their students and does not have time to take the Wilderness Leadership Training.

Our flagship course, the Wilderness Leadership Training, is five days long. The first day and night are spent car camping and the final four days and three nights are spent backpacking in the wilderness of Tahoe or Yosemite. This transformational course is also great for first time campers and backpackers. We teach the course like it is everyone’s their first time, since we know that you will be doing the same for your students. Be ready to experience equal parts professional development and personal growth.

Gilbert_2Eric: When are your next courses?

Aaron: Our next Frontcountry Leadership Training is September 28 and 29 at Henry Coe State Park in Morgan Hill.  The pre-trip meeting is September 24th from 5pm to 7pm in Oakland.

Our next Wilderness Leadership Training will be in Spring 2014.  Please keep your eyes on our website or join our listserve to receive notification about the exact dates.

New this year, teachers can apply to receive 3 units of graduate-level university credit for taking either the Wilderness Leadership or Frontcounty Leadership Training courses. If teachers take both they can get 6 units. For more information about how to please check out our website.  http://www.bawt.org/programs/training/teachercredit/.

Eric: Do you offer any other training or support for teachers?

Aaron: We offer additional training in wilderness medicine and snowshoeing, and additional support through mini grants and trip planning workshops. Our goal is for you to be successful and feel supported. When you take a course with Bay Area Wilderness Training, you are joining a vibrant community of educators and youth development professionals. You will make connections that will last you many years.

Eric: Whom should teachers contact for more information?

Aaron: Please contact me, Aaron Gilbert, at aaron@bawt.org or 510 452 2298 x301.

Eric: Thanks so much for your time, Aaron.  It seems like BAWT provides some great experiences for teachers and students alike!

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

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