Outdoor Leadership Semester

NOLS & Paul Smith’s College


As part of this unique semester, students will have the opportunity to attain professional certifications. Certifications are offered through partner organizations and each have specific criteria that must be met by each student in order to be awarded certification; taking the certification course does not mean a student will become certified. Some accrediting organizations also require prior experience or skill level in order to even take the course – for example, the AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor certification. This higher standard allows PSC students to reach higher-than-entry level skills and certifications, but may also mean that some NOLS/PSC Leadership Semester participants may not meet the required pre-requisites set forth by a certifying organization. Participation in each certification opportunity is NOT required by any NOLS/PSC Leadership Semester participant.

Certified Interpretive Guide

This certification course allows NOLS/PSC Leadership Semester students to gain 2 PSC credits. This is a 32-hour course with an exam, presentation, and other work that must be passed by the student to attain certification and to pass the course. This four day course combines both the theoretical foundations of interpretation with practical skills in delivering quality interpretive programming to visitors. Content covered includes the history, definition, and principles of interpretation, designing programs that are purposeful, enjoyable, relevant, organized, and thematic, using tangible objects to connect audiences to intangible ideas and universal concepts in interpretive programs, and presentation and communication skills. In addition to academic credit, this course offers a four-year, interpretive guide certification through the National Association for Interpretation. To learn more about NAI’s CIG course, click here.


American Mountain Guides Association Climbing Wall Instructor Course

*Please note – AMGA requires prior experience and skills before taking this course. See below.

The Climbing Wall Instructor Program (CWI) was introduced in 2007 to certify professionals who teach in an indoor or artificial wall environment. It aims to increase the level of professionalism in indoor climbing and to improve the level of climbing wall instruction, to develop a more consistent standard of care for climbing instructors in the US, to evaluate the skills of climbing instructors in the US, and to provide guidance for further professional development. This course addresses the basic technical skills necessary to manage an instructional program at a climbing facility. The course length is a minimum of 20 hours of instruction, skills demonstration, and evaluation, typically run over 2.5 days. Certification and AMGA membership lasts for three years. After three years current CWI’s can re-take a one-day reassessment to regain the CWI certification. This course for Paul Smith’s College is a Top Rope Certification. To learn more, visit the AMGA CWI website.

CWI Course Prerequisites:

  • You are 18 years old.
  • You have at least one year documented personal climbing experience (a minimum of 20 outings climbing indoors and/or outdoors in the last 12 months).
  • You are able to climb 5.7 on artificial structures., on top rope for top Rope Certification.
  • You understand the proper use of personal climbing equipment, including shoes, harness, belay device, carabiners, rope, cordage, and slings.


New York State Licensed Guide Program

Paul Smith’s College Outdoor Leadership Semester students may choose to sit for their NYS Guides License Exam. The licensing of outdoor guides is administered by the New York State Forest Rangers. You do not need to be a resident of New York State to receive a guides license. In general terms, a guide is a person, at least eighteen years of age, who offers services for hire, part or all of which includes directing, instructing or aiding another in fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, whitewater rafting/canoeing/kayaking, or rock and ice climbing. NYS requires individuals engaging in the business of guiding on all lands and waters of the state to possess a valid NYS Guide License.

Attaining a NYS Guide License is a multi-step process with various requirements; the cost of the basic exam entry fee is covered as part of the Outdoor Leadership Semester Course Fee. Students may choose to sit for additional exams from NYS in order to be licensed for specific recreational activities such as boating, ice climbing, fishing, hunting, and more. Kendra Ormerod, PSC Recreation Faculty and Outdoor Leadership Semester Coordinator, will facilitate the application and exam process for students starting in late September, upon return from the NOLS Expedition. For more information on the various aspects of the NYS Guide License Program, visit the DEC website.

American Canoe Association
Level 2: Essentials of Canoe Touring Certification 

*Please note – ACA requires prior experience and skills before taking this course; these skills will be reviewed and practiced during the paddling portion of the Aug 23 – Sept. 24 NOLS Expedition. However, students must still demonstrate an appropriate level of personal skill in order to achieve certification.

Teaching others to paddle is one of the most rewarding experiences a paddler can have. The American Canoe Association offers Instructor certification in a variety of Canoeing and Kayaking tracks. Each different Instructor program track offers Instructor certification at differing levels based on an individual Candidate’s personal skills and teaching ability. From the community volunteer who loves to paddle the local pond to the whitewater professional boater, the ACA offers a certification to meet the needs of the paddling public.

The Instructor Development Workshop will cover ACA Orientation, Teaching and Learning Theory, Equipment, Paddling Concepts, Strokes & Maneuvers, and Safety and Rescue. The Instructor Trainer facilitates group sessions to refine candidates skills and knowledge, drawing on the experience of the group. During the Instructor Certification Exam, candidate performances are observed and graded by the Instructor Trainers. Each discipline has specific skills requirements, and all Instructor Candidates are evaluated and tested on teaching ability, interpersonal skills, attention to safety, modeling skills and general paddlesport knowledge. Candidates “teach” in three settings: a two minute pop-up topic; a prepared 5-15 minute indoor/dryland presentation; and an on-water stroke session which includes a stroke demo, followed by skills practice and feedback coaching session with your peers. Click here to learn more about ACA Instructor Course.