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The Urban School
of San Francisco
1563 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 626 2919

Outdoor Trips Blog


Who and What is OEI?

by:  Lise Hisakawa 

OEI, a.k.a. Outdoor Educators Institute, is an intensive, fun, ten-week outdoor education training program –really, an adventure- run by Big City Mountaineers in the Bay Area. Participants of OEI are trained in a variety of outdoor and professional skills by local and national outdoor organizations.  The current OEI class is a group of ten (*awesome*) outdoor educators between the ages of 18-26.  

Seniors, it’s a whole lot of fun! If you love the outdoors, you should consider applying for next summer’s session!

We kicked off the OEI program with two weeks of “Leave No Trace” backpacking, led by Outward Bound, in the John Muir Wilderness near Courtright Reservoir in the Sierras.

Upon return from this trip we continued to build our outdoor skills with other local organizations.  For example, we learned how to manage the Pacific Leadership Institute’s rope course, near Ocean beach.  To prepare for our kayaking training we practiced basic water safety and rescue techniques at Hamilton Pool.  We also spent a day discussing inclusion and diversity within the context of outdoor education.  Our focus was on how to engage a more diverse population to be instructors in outdoor education. A typical outdoor educator today is a white man in his 30s, so the aim of the program is to make outdoor educators more socio-culturally diverse.  

My favorite part of the OEI training was with Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC), which I noticed Urban will also be on a Kayaking trip with in March!  With ETC we learned to kayak, self-rescue, and lead peers on the water. We spent a little over a week paddling around Tomales Bay, Sausalito, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Angel Island. Everyone on the trip had a chance to try both the single and double kayaks. We learned about tides and used the knowledge to cross the Raccoon Strait (the deep-water channel between Tiburon and Angel Island) with ease. As for lodging, we were really lucky. We camped at beautiful Hearts Desire on Tomales Bay, and the Bake House, a historical from the 1800s, on Angel Island.

The goal of these trainings has been to prepare OEI participants to instruct student groups.  We had a chance to test our new skills over four days at Crissy Fields Center, where we worked with students from Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, to bring awareness and spark dialogue about environmental issues in their neighborhoods.

Most recently, we completed a nine-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training through Ready SF and the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness Medicine Institute. The WFR training is the recognized medical certification for all outdoor educators. During the nine-day, hands on training, we had classroom lectures and mock scenarios that included a sea rescue scenario and a night scenario.

The final section of the OEI curriculum is an internship with an outdoor program.  This week at Urban I’m applying what I learned in the past weeks and programs. I hope to learn more about the administrative side of running an outdoor program. I really enjoyed co-leading the Survival Skills day in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, and meeting the Urban Sherpas and the rest of the students and faculty at Urban! Go Blues!




Posted by on Tuesday November, 12, 2013 at 02:04PM


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