According to Anne Smith, everyone is outdoorsy. They just don’t know it yet.
Through that lens, Smith, coordinator for the Outdoor Education Series at Southern Utah University, works to craft a year’s worth of lectures, presentations and “experiences”—a fancy word for field trips—that will pique the general public’s interest enough to keep them coming back for more.
As Smith puts it, “I believe that everyone, whether they really connect with the outdoors, or even if they never thought [nature] had anything for them, can find something to get excited about in the amazing world-class landscape SUU is fortunate enough to have as its backyard.”
The Outdoor Education Series (OES) capitalizes on that world-class backdrop to explore various topics relevant to the outdoor experience that is southern Utah. Now in its third year, the OES will open on Thursday, September 13, kicking off a series of weekly one-hour sessions slated to run throughout the academic year, presented by outdoor experts to highlight outdoor opportunities and information.
Back again this fall, the OES community outreach program will include topics ranging from school rafting adventures, wildlife projects and Utah’s deer history to learning how Native Americans have traditionally gathered plants. Presenters include a wide range of outdoor related speakers, including SUU faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as artists, scientists, public lands representatives, tourism businesses and members of the local community.
Smith has also again included Saturday sessions in OES programming. These extension opportunities will be offered twice during the fall semester and include fly fishing in the Beaver area or exploring one of many secret hot springs in southern Utah.
As in year’s past, this year’s OES line-up has been organized to improve access to outdoor information and opportunities for SUU students, faculty, staff and the local community, as increasing the outdoor experience is a primary institutional goal at SUU. Admission is free to all sessions, and all open to the general public and relevant to a broad segment of people across southern Utah. Sessions will be offered each week for 12 weeks on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 pm at SUU Outdoors in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.
The range of presentations this semester span quarter horses and sea turtles to Native American plant gathering and rafting for middle school education, just to name a few.
Highlights from presentations in years past include landscape and poetry in Zion National Park, lava tubes in Snow Canyon, innovative outdoor education, search and rescues, drum circles, Utah birds of prey, outdoor survival school, a GPS treasure hunt, plein air painting, mountain unicycling, wilderness leadership, Native American flute, SUU's archeology repository and field school, caves of Utah, sustainable communities, art hikes, outdoor photography and dance in nature.
With such a range, it’s no wonder Smith takes a something for everyone approach to the great outdoors, and its not surprising that there is much yet to learn for even the most avid outdoor enthusiast.
The first OES session, on September 13, will feature John Ibach, outdoor recreation director for Red Mountain Resort in St. George. Ibach will kick off the series by sharing his unique perspective working both sides of the fence as a former public lands manager and current professional in the private tourism sector, in the session, “Red Mountain Resort: Commercial Outdoor Adventures on Public Lands”.
As an added benefit to SUU’s new students enrolled under the new experiential education requirements, the OES can now also be used by students in UNIV 1010, Introduction to Experiential Education, to fulfill an “Engagement Opportunity” assignment.
The OES is one of many efforts by SUU to take advantage of its location among scenic state and national parks, monuments and public lands. Over the past few years SUU has developed its SUU Outdoors program, built a Challenge Course, began to offer a four-year degree in Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism, installed an indoor climbing wall, offered many outdoor student and community activities and, most recently, opened the new Harry Reid Center for Outdoor Engagement.
The OES is sponsored by SUU’s Harry Reid Center for Outdoor Engagement and the Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism (ORPT) program. For the Fall 2012 Outdoor Education Series schedule, please check the SUU Calendar online at suu.edu/events or the Harry Reid Center for Outdoor Engagement at suu.edu/uc/outdoor/.