Explore the outdoors and learn skills for college credit at SIU

Current River Cave Canoeing

When can you get college credit for experiencing the great outdoors while on a camping and canoeing expedition? When it’s part of a unique outdoor recreation learning adventure within the outdoor living skills class at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. And, this is just one of the experiential education options available to Salukis.

Canoeing the Current

During the fall semester, seven students, including five undergraduates and two graduate students, participated in the class outing on the Current River in Missouri. Josh Jahnke, a program graduate assistant, was the assistant instructor for the course with Tim Sellman, a senior recreation profession program major. Leading the way was Emily Tanner, an instructor in the public health and recreation professions department.

Over the course of the three-night, four-day adventure, the group canoed 30 miles, acquiring knowledge of canoeing fundamentals as well as safety techniques, such as how to safely recover from a capsize. Participants learned how to purify water, set up a campsite, build a fire and much more.

“It was an amazing hands-on learning experience,” Jahnke said. “They were also able to enjoy sitting around a campfire sharing stories and gazing up at the stars.”

Class is open to all students

While the course is required for recreation professions program students who are specializing in outdoor recreation leadership and management, it’s open to all SIU students. Those participating this fall included outdoor recreation, therapeutic recreation and psychology majors.

Intense learning experience

The trip proved to be an educational time in more ways than one for Filip Ferguson, a senior recreation major from Bloomington, Illinois.

“I learned a lot about the concepts of canoeing on a river and the risks that need to be understood,” he said. “The biggest thing was learning about Leave No Trace principles and survival skills such as water filtration, disposing of human waste, learning how to manage a tent without it getting wet and using an outdoor cook stove. There is just so much I learned.”

But, the trip also taught Ferguson some personal lessons. He said he is not the same person he was before going on the trip.

“The most important thing was learning about my own insecurities and what I am truly capable of. When you put yourself in a position of risk, knowing what you are about to do could affect you, you begin to realize the true meaning of the act of living,” he said. “We don’t live unless we do what we believe is right and we take risks to learn about ourselves and our environment that we put ourselves in.”

Ferguson said his goal is to work in the field of therapeutic recreation and the lessons he learned will translate into his work as he helps clients with physical or mental challenges achieve their goals.

Additional outdoor learning trips set

Don’t despair if you missed last fall’s trip. There are a variety of other courses on campus where the benefits of outdoor recreation are proven. There are 200-level skills-based courses in rock climbing, canoeing and backpacking.

Building Fire while camping

Students can earn three credit hours over spring break by taking Rec 427 – Water-Based Recreation – a canoeing/camping trip to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

A summer class, Rec 431 Expedition Leadership, is open to all majors. The class is required for students who are earning the outdoor recreation leadership specialization and they plan and lead the trip. They will pitch trip ideas to faculty instructors in February.

To learn more about the outdoor living skills class or any of the other similar courses in SIU’s recreation professions program, visit the website or contact Tanner at emily.tanner@siu.edu.