This semester, a course in Central Michigan University's recreation, parks and leisure services administration department is giving students the opportunity to learn how to become good stewards of nature.
Faculty member Jordan Bruursema teaches Leave No Trace Ethics, a one-credit seminar in which students learn how to respect and enjoy the outdoors responsibly with minimal impact on public recreational areas.
"The experiential learning can't really happen in a classroom atmosphere," Bruursema said. "Getting students outdoors and making a connection with nature helps them become better educators and stewards of the environment."
Leave No Trace refers to a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It is built on seven principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare;
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces;
- Dispose of waste properly;
- Leave what you find;
- Minimize campfire impacts;
- Respect wildlife; and,
- Be considerate of other visitors.
Students work in pairs and teach their classmates about Leave No Trace as if their classmates have no knowledge of what it means. The class gives them opportunities to work on their presentation skills and connect with people.
"My goal for the students is to have them gain a better understanding and appreciation of their natural environment," Bruursema said. "There is no better place to learn than Mother Nature's classroom."
Students leave the course as professional Leave No Trace trainers.
"Outdoor adventure is a hot topic right now, and as the population grows, there's a lot more people spending time in outdoor recreational activities," Bruursema said.
"We're not getting more wilderness with population growth, so we need to be stewards of what we have and try to protect and conserve it to the best of our abilities."
Since 1994, the Leave No Trace program has been managed by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors worldwide. The center's mission is to teach people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly through education, research, volunteerism and partnerships. There are more than 25,000 active volunteers and members who help provide training and outreach that impacts more than 22 million people annually in the U.S.