Methods of Teaching Outdoor Activities


HPSS 4445 - Course Syllabus






Class Syllabus: Methods of Teaching Outdoor Activities (PE 4445)

Idaho State University College of Education
Department of Human Performance and Sport Studies


HPSS 4445 Methods of Teaching Outdoor Activities               

Ron Watters (
Variable Credit: 3-4 Credits                                                                             
Spring Semester                                                                     
Tuesday, Thursday (4:00-5:15 pm)        


HPSS 4445  Methods of Teaching Outdoor Activities - 3-4 credits (Spring Semester)

Note that Outdoor Education Majors should sign-up for the 4-credit option.  Minors have their choice of either 3 or 4 credits.  The difference in credits boils down to the number of hours spent on the practicum:  32 active hours for the 3-credit option and 48 active hours for the 4-credit option.

Course Website
Additional information about this course and related materials is found at the following URL address:


Course Instructor, Office and Contact Information
Ron Watters is a professor emeritus with Sports Science and Physical Education Department. He is the former director of the Idaho State University Outdoor Program and is the author of seven books on outdoor activities. Active nationally in the field of outdoor education, he is one of the founders of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and serves as the director of the National Outdoor Book Awards.


Note that he is a part time instructor and does not have office hours like full-time faculty.  Feel free to contact him via email (  You may reach him at the Outdoor Program Office (236-3912), or feel free to call him at home 232-6857. 


University Catalog Course Description
"This culminating course for outdoor education minors consists of two parts: a study of the objectives, programs and methods of teaching outdoor recreation activities followed by a practicum experience in which students assist in teaching and leading outdoor activities." 


Targeted Standards
Targeted Idaho State University Outdoor Education Standards include: Standard 1 (Content Knowledge); Standard 2 (Teaching and Leadership Strategies); and Standard 5 (Experiential Skills and Field Experience).


Course Goals & Objectives
Goal 1: Teaching methodology

Objective 1A:  To explore the fundamentals of motor learning
Objective 1B:  To study ways of creating positive, safe and effective learning environments
Objective 1C:  To review research into teaching effectiveness

Goal 2: Learning strategies
Objective 2A: To develop learning and programming objectives
Objective 2B: To practice creating and implementing lesson plans

Goal 3: Preparing for the Real World
Objective  3A: To explore and make preparations to enter the outdoor job market.
Objective  3B: To have an understanding of outdoor business opportunities

Goals 4: Practical experience in the field
Objective 4A: To gain experience in teaching and/or leading outdoor activities



Course Content
This course consists of two basic components.  The first is a series of lecture and class discussions about teaching methods and instructional strategies that can be used in outdoor activities.  The second component is a 32 to 48 hour practicum.  
If you are taking the course for 3 credits, a 32-hour practicum is required.  If you are taking the course for 4 credits, a 48-hour practicum is required.  The practicum is a planned field experience which enables you to gain direct experience in teaching and/or leading outdoor activities.  For more details on the practicum and student responsibilities, see the attached "Practicum Procedures."


Note - Covid Adjustments to Course Content. Because of Covid restrictions, it will be difficult for most students to obtain a practicum, so the course will have two tracks: a PRACTICUM TRACK and a NON-PRACTICUM TRACK.  The non-practicum track largely involves researching and writing a paper. Details on both tracks will be available on the course's moodle site


Text and Readings
No text is required. Lecture materials and supplemental information will be provided on the course website.


Other References
Other resources supplementing the class are available in the Outdoor Program library and resource center.  In the library you'll find maps, guidebooks, magazines, videos and catalogs, all of which are available on a free check-out basis.  The Outdoor Program office is open 9 to 5 weekdays.


Evaluation Criteria and Grading Scale
College of Education approved percentage scale is utilized (next page):
A = 94 - 100
A- = 90 - 93
B+ = 87 - 89
B = 84 - 86
B- = 80 - 83
C+ = 77 - 79
C = 74 - 76
C- = 70 - 73
D+ = 67 - 69
D = 64 - 66
F = Below 63


The final grade for the course is based on the several course components.  The scores from each of these three components are weighted in the following manner:


1% Lesson Plan

10% Mid Term

5% Essay

4% Teaching Experience

20% Final Exam

60% Practicum / Non Practicum Paper


The deadline for the Practicum Report is Friday of Closed WeekIMPORTANT:  Closed Week is the week prior to Final Week.  Papers handed in late receive an automatic reduction of one grade for each day late.  Anything handed in after Wednesday of Final Week is given an "F."


Assessment Consent
A part of institutional and state outcomes assessment requirements, and state and national program accreditation requirements, the College of Education collects copies of performance assessments and assessment data for the purposes of individual and program accountability.  By enrolling in this course, you consent to have your assessment information collected and utilized by the College of Education for these purposes and as part of credibility studies supporting the validity, consistency, and fairness of the assessments. To protect your confidentiality, when summary reports are published or discussed in conferences, no information will be included that would reveal your identity.  If photographs, videos, or audiotape recordings of you obtained from your performance assessments are used to demonstrate program accountability, then your identity will be protected or disguised, or we will ask you for permission to disclose your identity in order to give you credit for your performance. We may disclose the assessment information we collect about you under other circumstances as permitted or required by law. Assessment data are maintained and disclosed in accordance with Idaho State University policies to insure compliance with the provisions of the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended.  If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Peter Denner, Assistant Dean, at 282-4230 or


Academic Dishonesty
Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism and cheating.  For more information refer to the ISU Student Handbook found on the following webpage:  For definitions of cheating and plagiarism, see the ISU Faculty and Staff Handbook (Part 6, Sec. IX, page 6.9.1) found on the webpage:


Reasonable Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The Sports Science, Physical Education and Dance program is committed to providing a classroom environment in which all students may achieve their potential.  If you have a disability or think you have a disability (physical, learning, hearing, vision, psychiatric) which may need reasonable accommodation, please contact the ADA Disabilities & Resource Center as early as possible.  The Center is located in Room 123 of Graveley Hall on the lower Idaho State University Campus.  Its phone number is 282-3599.


Evaluation of Course and Instructor
An on-line College of Education course evaluation instrument will be posted on the course Moodle site at the end of the semester, at which time you'll have an opportunity to evaluate the course and the instructor. 


Course Schedule – Aligned with Course Goals & Objectives
Note that this is a rough schedule and will change.  The instructor will keep you appraised.

Course Segment

Topics / Skills


Session 1

Definitions: goals, objectives curriculum, the three learning domains.  Behaviorist vs. Humanist teaching styles

Objective 1A

Session 2

The concept of motor learning.  Information Processing Model.  Three stages of motor learning.  Implications for instructing outdoor activities.  Types of feedback

Objective 1A

Session 3

Lesson Plans: their value and use.  How to develop an outdoor activity lesson plan

Objectives 2A, 2B

Session 4

Effective and ineffective learning environments.  Teacher vs. Student Directed Learning.  Dealing with inappropriate behavior.  Motor skills acquisition.

Objective 1B

Session 5

The learning environment in the outdoors.  Effective use of resources.  Safety considerations.  Creating a positive environment.

Objective 1B

Session 6

Classification of motor skills: closed skills, open skills, closed skills in differing environments.  Content development charts.  Progressions, sequencing, applications.

Objective 1A

Session 7

Mid-course Test


Session 8 - 10

Break for Practicum Experiences:

At this point, all students will be placed and working in practicums.  The minimum number of hours spent working in practicums are 48 hours for outdoor education majors and 32 hours for outdoor education minors.

Objective 4A

Session 11

Enhancing and undermining self concept.  Effective teaching. Mental practice

Objective 1B

Session 12

Finding work in the outdoor education field.  Information on where to find jobs. Resources available on the Internet, including professional networking

Objective 3A

Session 13

How to apply for jobs. Creating resumes which are attractive and stand out. Conducting interviews including on-line interviews. Viewing interviews from the perspective of the employer.

Objective 3A

Session 14

Parlaying your outdoor education degree and experience into a business.  Creating a microbusiness or a small business and examples of each as they relate to the outdoor field. Steps to follow in creating a business. 

Objective 3B

Session 15

Preparing for work in the real world: dealing with taxes. A simple explanation on how to fill out IRS Form 1040. Information on what constitutes deductible employee expenses (common in the outdoor field) and how they may help when it comes to taxes. Basic information on how business taxes are determined.

Objective 3A, 3B

Session 16

The financial side of life: budgeting, buying a house (or renting), buying a vehicle, pitfalls of credit cards and pay-day loans, establishing an emergency fund, understanding 401(k)'s and IRA's. How to counteract inflation. A close look at saving accounts, CD's, IBonds and stocks.

Objective 3A,3B

Session 17 What it means to be a professional: networking among professionals, professional organizations, keeping current in the field, attending conferences. Developing the habit of writing: starting a blog, writing for newsletters and other forms of writing. Goal setting: categorizing goals, determining deadlines, dealing with failure. Objective 3A,3B



Three to four additional class periods are allocated to guest speakers: professionals and businessmen or businesswomen working in the field. In past guest speakers have included owners of outdoor equipment manufacturing companies, the founder and owner of an Idaho mountaineering and ski guiding business, the owner of an outdoor retail store, and retired outdoor professionals who had worked for state or federal government and/or private businesses. Objective 3A,3B


Final Exam




Alignment of Standards, Objectives and Assessment Methods

Alignment of Standards, Objectives, and Assessment Methods

Program Standard or Goal

Course Objectives

Assessment Method

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 2: Teaching and Leadership Strategies

Objective 1A: To explore the fundamentals of motor learning

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 2: Teaching and Leadership Strategies

Objective 1B:  To study ways of creating positive, safe and effective learning environments

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 2: Teaching and Leadership Strategies

Objective 1C:  To review research into teaching effectiveness

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 2: Teaching and Leadership Strategies

Objective 2A: To develop learning and programming objectives

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Standard 2: Teaching and Leadership Strategies

Objective 2B: To practice creating and implementing lesson plans

Two Lesson Plans
Content Development Chart

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Objective  3A: To explore and make preparations to enter the outdoor job market.

Written Test

Standard 1: Content Knowledge

Objective  3B: To have an understanding of outdoor business opportunities

Written Test

Standard 5 (Experiential Skills and Field Experience)

Objective 4A: To gain experience in teaching and/or leading outdoor activities

Practicum Paper



Practicum Procedures
Attached to this syllabus (next page) is additional information on your practicum experience.  Keep this information handy as you prepare and work through the practicum.  Remember to write frequently in your practicum journal and update it regularly.  The journal and its entries will be your main source of information as you prepare the final report of the experience.  If you need any assistance at any point, please don’t hesitate to contact the instructor.



Practicum Procedures
Methods of Teaching Outdoor Activities (PE 4445)

Purpose of Practicum

The practicum portion of this course is a planned field experience which enables you to gain direct experience in teaching and/or leading outdoor activities. 


Making Arrangements with an On-site Supervisor

In a practicum, you work under the direction of an on-site supervisor. Examples of on-site supervisors include outdoor education instructors (such as instructors of kayaking, rock climbing, cross-country skiing classes), scout or youth group leaders, public school teachers, camp counselors, city recreation program supervisors, etc. 

You'll want to pick a practicum experience in which you have sufficient skills and knowledge to be an asset to the on-site supervisor.  You should not pick practicums which are out of your experience range.  For instance, attempting to help teach a rock climbing class when you are only a beginner rock climber is a poor choice for a practicum.


It's important before approaching an on-site supervisor that you discuss your practicum ideas with the instructor of this course.  Some practicum experiences may not be appropriate, and by consulting with the course instructor in advance you can avoid unnecessary work. 


Once the instructor has approved your idea, you'll want to set up an appointment with the on-site supervisor to see if they are willing to take you in as a practicum student.  Keep in mind that practicum students can and do create extra work on the part of on-site supervisors, and some supervisors may not be able to accept students. Be prepared with alternative ideas.  Always use tact and courtesy when approaching potential supervisors. 


Student Responsibilities

Your responsibilities are the following:

1.  In your journal, keep a record what you have done:  planning and preparation work, description of activities assisted with, list of skills taught, and any follow-up work required by the on-site supervisor.

2.  Also include in your journal, observations on anything that you've learned:  helpful teaching techniques, new ways of working with groups, and any new personal skills and knowledge you learned.

3.  Your journal should include an accurate log of the time spent during the practicum.  In the log include the date that you worked and starting and ending times.  The total number of hours required in an outdoor education practicum experience is 32 hours if you are taking the course for 3 credits; 48 hours is you are taking the course for 4 credits.

Note that it's important to write in your journal soon after you have helped with an activity. By making entries right away, you'll find it fairly easy to summarize what you did and how it went.  The longer you wait, however, the more information you'll end up forgetting.  


As time goes on, you may reflect a bit more and think of things to add to a previous journal entry.  Great!  Go ahead and add it.  That's the normal process of reflection.   Subconsciously, your mind has been processing the experience and you suddenly come up with a new insight and some additional thoughts on a part of your practicum.  Write them down.   By doing this, you'll find that it's much easier to prepare your final practicum report at the end of the semester.

4.  Lesson Plan.  Develop at least one lesson plan of an activity of which your on-site supervisor has placed you in charge.  Follow the format found in the Lesson Plan hand-out provided by the instructor.

5.  Supplementary Materials.  Include in your journal any supplementary practicum materials:  (a) class syllabus (only required if you are assisting in the teaching of an activity class like kayaking or rock climbing). (b) hand-outs to students or participants (these might be equipment and clothing lists, class information sheets, letters to parents for youth groups, etc.); (c) sign-up or liability release sheets (include any sign-up sheet which lists the participants involved in the activity or include a list of the students in the class.  Important note: all class lists must have all student numbers removed.); and (d) include any other materials that you might have developed during the practicum.



Practicum Report (Due at the End of the Semester)


At the end of the semester, turn in a practicum report.  Remember that what you submit is nearly three fourths of your grade.  Let's just think about that.  In essence for majors, the practicum report represents the work of a 3-credit class.  For minors, it represents a 2 credit class.  You don't want to gloss over this.  You'll want to put some effort into it.  This is what you need:


1.  At least a four-page typed summary and analysis of your practicum project.  Provide an overall summary what you did in your practicum

You'll notice by reviewing the list of questions, above, that the summary report is more than a list of tasks you completed - that's a part of it, yes - but you also want the report to be a reflection upon the practicum.  You may find that you are repeating some of your reflections and insights that are found in your journal.  That's fine.  What you want to do in the report is to distill the important parts of your journal in summary form.  A person should  be able to read the report and get a good feel about what you did during your practicum and what you learned from it - without having to read all of your journal entries.



2.  A copy of your journal.  If you like, you may use a notebook initially to make journal entries, but the journal that you turn in must be typed.  Let me elaborate a bit more on what should be covered in the journal:

3.  Any supplementary materials: sign-up sheets (it's okay to blot out signatures of participants if the privacy policy of your agency requires it), promotional materials for the activities in which you were involved, hand-outs, power point print-outs (if you did a presentation), any other materials that might be related to the activities in which you assisted.


4.  Lesson Plan of an activity or skill learning session planned during the practicum.  If you were involved in a practicum in which a lesson plan wasn't used, you still need to turn in a lesson plan.  Instead, create a lesson plan on some activity related to your practicum which could be taught.

5.  The two signed forms:  Practicum Placement and Practicum Verification Form.  If you worked under more than one practicum supervisor, include the two forms for each supervisor.  Copies of the forms are found here: Practicum Forms.


6. Practicum Report Checklist.  A check-off sheet is available to help make sure that you have included everything listed above.  Here's the link: Practicum Report Checklist


Practicum Forms

Two forms are needed for your practicum: 1) Practicum Placement and Duties form; and 2) Practicum Verification form.  Both are available on-line at:





Your portfolio is not required for this class, but you should be aware that if you are an outdoor education major, you need a portfolio - and you will need to show your portfolio to your adviser sometime before graduation. Here are more details . . .


Outdoor Education Majors:  Portfolio Requirements Idaho State University Sports Science and Physical Education Department


Note:  The following is only required if you are a Physical Education Major with an Outdoor Education Emphasis through the Sports Science and Physical Education Department.  If you are majoring in another subject, you can disregard the information below.

If you are an Outdoor Education Major, you are expected to compile a personal portfolio.  You'll want to begin saving information for your portfolio as soon as you undertake your course of study. 

Portfolio material may be placed in a three ring binder, portfolio case or as a PDF document.  You will need to present your portfolio for a final check with your advisor.  This must be done NO LATER than two weeks prior to graduation.
The following is a list of portfolio requirements.  You may also add appropriate professional information that you think is relevant to your career search.

Required Components

  1. Professional Resume.  
  2. Transcript.  (Make a copy of your ISU Transcript)
  3. An Outline of Your Program of Study.  (List of classes you have completed toward your major degree.  This information, of course, is included on your transcript, but in this document, you should list only the classes you have taken for your major.)
  4. Evidence of Completed Current First Aid Requirements.  (If Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder does not appear on your transcript, then you will need a photocopy of a current Wilderness First Aid, EMT or related certificate.)
  5. Leadership Project Report.  (Outdoor Leadership - PE 3386)
  6. Community Conservation Project Report (Outdoor Leadership - PE 3386)
  7. Outdoor Journal.  (Outdoor Leadership - PE 3386)
  8. Examples of Lesson Plans Created.  (Outdoor Methods - PE 4445)
  9. Outdoor Practicum Report.  (Outdoor Methods - PE 4445)
  10. Risk Management Poster Presentation.  (Risk Management & Liability - PE 3384)

Other Components to Consider (Not Required)








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