Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Boom, Clap, Go Gap 2016!!

Wilderness Leadership Expedition - Voyageur Outward Bound School, Ely, MN

Intrepid SNC Gap Students Leave Behind Modern Conveniences of Home and
Begin Their First College Semester in the Wild

This year's group of Gap students once again made the long drive from the St. Norbert College Campus to Ely, MN, where they temporarily took up residence at Voyageur Outward Bound School's base camp --  fondly referred to as Home Place. Voyageur Outward Bound School sits on the beautiful banks of the Kawishiwi River, and is the setting where students begin to learn some very basic technical outdoor skills (and tactical for that matter) to help keep them safe, healthy and happy in the wilderness. Not only do they learn how to properly pack a Duluth pack, but also how to safely lift and portage a canoe across rocky and challenging terrain. They learn the necessity of working together as a team and the importance of practicing positive communication to work through times when things get a bit tense or tough. From the outside, it may look like the students are just learning how to paddle a canoe properly, or how to build a wood fire with only one match, or preparing meals from scratch in the back country. But it is much more than that! Through direct experience, the lessons students learn about effective team-work, different styles and techniques of leadership, and how to positively engage in communication to resolve conflict -- these are lessons that will apply to the rest of their college experience. And perhaps more importantly, the lessons they are learning in the back country are certainly transferable to their lives' far beyond college. The overall effect of challenging the students to move beyond their comfort zones can lead to profound changes in how each student perceives not only themselves, but also the world around them. They learn what it means to persevere, to trust others and work together as a team in accomplishing goals. Ultimately, they learn some very valuable life lessons, and learn what it means to approach their lives with 'grit' and determination...

Learning the Trick of 'Bracing' a Canoe, Preparing to Successfully Portage a Canoe

Danielle Learning the Fine Art of Back Country Cooking

Nathaniel Rocks Portaging the Canoe

Although the first week was spent mostly practicing these new technical skills, students were additionally challenged with thinking deeply about their personal strengths and growing edges, after having completed the on-line Strengths Quest assessment tool -- something that all incoming St. Norbert College freshmen are required to do. The assessment tool identifies each students' top 5 strengths, which could be thought of as traits or natural tendencies, and then encourages students to exercise or strengthen these innate traits, so as to build upon what they are already competent at, rather than focusing on one's negative traits -- which oftentimes can only produce negative results. The Gap students then begin to hone in, and work on refining their top 5 strengths within the context of the of the leadership course that they are engaged in.

Students Engaged in a Leadership Lesson... Not Your Typical College Classroom

Claire Working on her Homework

In some sense through the practice of working together as a team -- each person assuming a role with specific duties and responsibilities -- students learn first-hand how important strong leadership is to any endeavor. Throughout the entire wilderness expedition, students are assigned in pairs to act as the leaders of the day, and they are responsible for making sure that the group continues along the established expedition route, while also making sure that all expedition members are well-fed and well-hydrated. But additionally, the leaders of the day need to ensure that each team member feels emotionally and psychologically supported throughout the day's travels. Imagine trying to inspire your team members to adopt a positive attitude when every is short on sleep -- having had only had 5 hours of sleep the night prior? Or try to drum up excitement when the next portage is 150 rods (eg. a rod equals 16.5 feet), instead of just a short 10 rod portage? Try to envision rallying your team mates when it has been raining non-stop for 3 days and everyone is wet, cold, and hungry? What happens when tempers flare and conflict arises -- which inevitably happens given the extreme conditions the students face in the wilderness? The students then begin to practice the communication techniques they have been introduced to, and grow immeasurably from the overall experience. These are all things that can be talked about and discussed in a classroom, but it would remain at a purely conceptual or theoretical level, and the 'staying power' of the lessons the students learn through direct experience are far more potent.

Learning to Navigate Using Map and Compass

Learning the Importance of a Well-Organized Portage Crossing and Team Work

Eric Learns How Essential a Proper Canoe Stroke is to Navigating Through Dense Wetlands

And then of course there is the exhilarating and often times intimidating experience of learning how to rock climb. Once again, as the students learn the technical aspects of climbing, the lessons they have learned about the necessity of team work and trusting others, becomes absolutely essential. As any rock climber knows, if you don't trust or communicate clearly with your climbing partner, that could make the difference between a safe and exhilarating climb, and a truly negative experience. After the group learns the basics at a spot called Quiet Rocks located at Home Place, they then get the opportunity to try out their rock climbing skills out in the field. Through this experience students ultimately learn how to confront their fears, trusting in the process of relying on others to 'help' them move upward and onward, gaining more confidence as they move up the rock face to the top. Again, through direct experience, they take something that would remain purely theoretical, and through the act of actually doing it, they learn what they are actually capable of!! Which is an invaluable lesson that they can apply to many areas of their lives' as they inevitably encounter new challenges along the way..

Aby Reaches the Top!! Huge Smiles

Bryanna Takes a Breather Mid-Way up the Cliff Face

(See If You Can Find the Heart Shape in the Sky?) Love Will Always Find A Way...


  1. It looks absolutely gorgeous there...I'm assuming everyone is still with the group. I would love to see our sweet daughter's face. We are so proud of all of the GAP students!!
    Love you all! Dave & Lori Bradish

  2. Proverbs 3:23-24 Then you will go safely on your way, and you will not hurt your foot. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. As you lie there, your sleep will be sweet. How true. Although sleep may be slight. :) God Bless to all in your travels! Love you Nathaniel! The Osterbergs. <><

  3. What an amazing experience for this group of young leaders! We wish you all the best as the adventures continue. Stay safe & enjoy each day!
    The Farrs (Bradish Family Friends...miss you Nat)

  4. What a beautiful setting for such an amazing experience! You are in our thoughts and prayers for a safe and enjoyable time. Miss you Natalie!
    Hugs,,,,,Grandma Jo & Grandpa

  5. Hope everyone has a great time and learns a lot!
    Dr. Rosewall - from the SNC Dean's Office

  6. Looks absolutely awesome. These beautiful pictures make it look easy, but also apparent there is a lot of hard work and challenges involved.

  7. Grateful for the post but Bernie and I are with Lori as we are eagerly awaiting to see a picture of our daughter, Cailyn. We know she is in good hands, learning a lot about herself, others and working together as a team as they push through adversity when faced with new and ever-changing obstacles. Extremely grateful to SNC, Dr. Fredrickson, Morgan and Chris for making this truly transformative college experience possible. So happy and excited for all of the Gapsters and the experiences they have shared thus far and the many more ahead for them. GOD BLESS YOU ALL and know that you are in our family's thoughts and prayers. The Tompa Family

  8. Good luck to all you gapsters! Have an incredible experience and enjoy all you will learn! Give Nate a hug for me!!

    Love, Grandma Robin and Cousin Carter

  9. This comment is for Natalie Bradish. Hi, Natalie. We just want you to know that our whole family has been thinking about you and keeping you in our prayers. You amaze us! It looks like you are with a great group of fellow leaders (and also fellow adventuresome people!). We hope that all is going well for you! May God bless you, sweetheart, and we hope that we get to see you soon! Love, The Wolske Family

  10. I hope Bradley or "Bradical" Varner and Joseph Prebys are alive and well.

  11. Actually, just make sure Joe is alive and well

  12. Great write up. Looking forward to your safe return. What an adventure for all. You all have made us all proud! :) Osterbergs