Teaching Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace can be presented to anyone, regardless of their age and outdoors experience. Young children learning why its better to leave little blue flowers growing along a path or old men learning why dumping dishwater in the creek isn't the best choice are prime examples of LNT ethics. Depending on the age and background of your audience, the message you give needs to be tailored.
You can present to mixed groups, but the message is more effective if your audience has similar experience, expectations, and needs. That way, you can highlight the specific areas of need to ensure a positive change.
Know the Audience: Interview the group leader or some members of the group to determine their current understanding and implementation of LNT principles. If you ARE the group leader and are going to teach the group, then honestly determine what is needed - interviewing a couple group members is still a good idea.
- What are their usual camping trips like? Explain what usually goes on from the thought to returning home.
- How do they plan and prepare? Do they consider all circumstances?
- Where and how do they set up camp?
- What do they do with waste? human, food, washwater, ...
- How are fires used?
- When have they encountered wildlife and what happened?
- What experience do they have with LNT principles already?
- What do they feel they need to learn to reduce their impact?
Limit the Session: An LNT course can last from 30 minutes to 5 days. To be effective, no single educational session should be longer than 20 minutes. If you have ongoing access to the group's regular meetings, setting aside a 20-minute session at each meeting is a great way to present. It keeps it short and interesting. Lecturing for 2 hours straight will be quite ineffective no matter how attentive your audience appears.
A 2.5 hour workshop broken into 7 20-minute sessions works well. Two 1-hour workshops a couple days apart with an assignment between them is another option. Presenting any one of the seven principles whenever your group has a free half-hour can work - each principle can be presented separately from all the others.
Prepare: Presenting Leave No Trace principles requires the preparation of many different materials so your demonstrations, exercises, and games work out. Set aside time well before your presentation to become familiar with the information and try out your activities. Ensure you have adequate space for your presentations in an environment that works for learning - outside is great, as long as it's not pouring rain or freezing cold or stifling hot.
Guide to Discovery: Rather than talking to your group, have them spend as much time as possible experiencing situations and making decisions. Encourage them to be involved in the activity and think for themselves rather than passively sitting and listening to you ramble on. Groups should learn together as they participate and discover the impacts their actions make. Some may catch on more quickly and some may be resistant to change. By presenting situations where they can choose, rather than list the rules of LNT, they discover their own current land ethics and decide how they need to modify it.