NOLS is an “Outdoor Leadership School” that strives to find and develop students’ personal and signature leading styles. While backpacking through rugged terrain, cooking their own meals, leading day hikes and setting up their tents, students hone leadership skills.
Director of Archer’s Outdoor Education program Stephanie Ferri found NOLS three years ago on her search for a “more leadership based program.” Ferri explained that she and Upper School Director Samantha Coyne were attracted to NOLS because it is “a company whose mission statement closely aligned with Archer’s, and who is ultimately the best outdoor education and leadership program.”
Created and customized for Archer’s student body, the NOLS one-week long “Arrow Week Expedition” program is offered to every 7th, 9th and 11th grade Archer student.
Arrow Week surrounds the “4, 7, 1 Model” —which Ferri explains is “four types of leadership, seven skills and one signature style.”
Seventh grade students backpack through canyons in Green River, Utah, every April. Ferri says that “the trip’s focal points are on self leadership, being able to comfortably survive in the wilderness, and gaining an understanding of how to be an active follower to your designated leader.”
The 9th graders visit Arizona on a backpacking trip where they have the opportunity to lead hiking groups. Ferri describes the curriculum for the 9th grade Arrow Week as a “progression of the techniques of self leadership and peer leadership that were taught in 7th grade.”
On the trip, each student prepares her own meals and sets up her tent. Archer freshman Mari Goldberg ’17 says that her favorite part of the trip was “cooking the food and coming up with creative recipes to satisfy my tent group.”
In 11th grade, the students backpack through the mountains of Washington, and, similar to other NOLS courses, focus on fostering confidence in leadership skills.
Ferri describes the program as having a “focus on all leadership styles, but really getting the girls to focus on their individual leading style. NOLS teaches the girls to lead from their own personality because everyone can be a leader. The NOLS programs hones in on what the students individual leading style is and how to use it.”
The current 9th grade class has been on two NOLS trips. Ferri recounts their progression from 7th grade to 9th grade Arrow Week: “They retained a lot of previous skills and were a lot more comfortable out in the wilderness, and it was really amazing seeing them really excel.”
When the Oracle met with Dean of Students Gretchen Warner, she discussed the effects that NOLS has had on the Archer community: “Arrow Week helps students build connectedness and realize self-reliance.”
Warner went on to explain that she likes NOLS because “the quality of the leadership curriculum fits well with Archer’s mission and our goals for Arrow Week.”
Warner described the parallel mission statements of NOLS and Archer: “NOLS delivers a progressive, skill-based curriculum focused on teaching students leadership, wilderness and team-building skills.”
She added, “Archer’s goals for Arrow Week are to provide experiential opportunities for students to embrace possibility, seek challenges, and take risks in outdoor settings. This is an integral tenet of Archer’s mission and one of the primary ways we fulfill our commitment to graduating resilient, confident, and self assured young women.”
Ferri says that NOLS shows that, “anyone can be a leader.”
Archer sophomore Lindsay Cayton ’16 described her experience last year: “NOLS taught me about myself and my personal leading style—now the idea of leading wasn’t scary but exciting.”