The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The (mis)adventures of outdoor adventure education

2022 Secondary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Nathali Jones talks adventure education at Thursdays at the U
Jones opens her discussion with an adventure-appropriate Yiddish proverb. (Photo used with permission from Linda Tollefsrud)

“Mensch tracht und gott lacht,” which translates to “man plans and God laughs,” is the Yiddish proverb that adventure education teacher Nathali Jones referenced while discussing her (mis)adventures teaching adventure education at Thursdays at the U on Nov. 9. 

“That proverb is what risk management and safe adventures are all about. We can have all kinds of well-thought-out plans, but then something goes awry,” Jones said.

Jones was the 2022 Secondary Physical Education Teacher of the Year for Wisconsin. Jones said she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical and health education at UW-La Crosse and later returned to receive a master’s degree in adventure and outdoor physical education. 

Jones said she went on to teach at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids and is currently on sabbatical from that position after being offered a one-year contract to teach at UW-Eau Claire.

Story continues below advertisement

Jones began by the presentation by discussing the concepts of safety and risk management. She went into the physical and emotional components of safety and compared the principle of safety to risk management.

“With risk management, there’s almost a guarantee that something will go wrong. The perceived risk compared to actual risk is something that varies from person to person,” Jones said.

Jones went on to tell several stories from her own experiences in the outdoors, each of which demonstrated the importance of being prepared and safe in adventure situations.

Jones gave one example of a fishing trip she took when it was discovered after catching a number of fish that no dishes or cooking utensils had been taken along.

“When you’re packing for an adventure, it’s always so important to make a list and check it twice,” Jones said.

Jones also described a close encounter with a herd of buffalo at Wind Cave National Park, emphasizing the need for an emergency action plan while traveling in the wilderness.

Jones outlined some of the courses she taught during her eight years at Lincoln High School.

“Working with teenagers can definitely be interesting – it definitely adds another element when you’re with these kids and they can just throw you a curveball,” Jones said.

Jones said the school offers three main outdoor adventure classes: fall/spring adventure education, winter outdoor education and environmental literature in the outdoors.

For the environmental literature course, Jones said the class combined stories they read with outdoor activities.

“For example, we read ‘A River Runs Through It,’ which is a story about fly fishing in Montana. Going off of that, I taught myself how to fly fish using the book as a reference,” Jones said.

The high school also offered several outdoor activities throughout the year, including scuba diving, rock climbing and foraging.

“In order to do all of this with students, we had to come up with detailed risk management plans to minimize any potential risk, including preparedness, knowledgeable staff and obtaining informed consent prior to the activities,” Jones said.

Jones went into some of the adventures she’d had with students, as well as obstacles that were overcome during those trips.

At the end of the discussion, Jones stayed for questions from the audience about her adventures, future trip goals and risk management advice.

Thursdays at the U is a program held weekly at the UW-Eau Claire — Barron County campus. According to coordinator Linda Tollefsrud, the program has been going on for nearly 20 years and includes a different speaker and topic each week.

“The program has changed a lot over the years; it was initially a ‘brown bag seminar’ with a lot of academic focus, but in the past decade or so we’ve invited students and community members to make it more community-oriented,” Tollefsrud said.

Tollefsrud said that the program operates on a “shoestring budget,” but that speakers from UW-Madison’s Badger Talk series will sometimes contribute.

“I try to make the topics as diverse as possible,” Tollefsrud said. “I’ll follow up on anything that might be of interest to the general population.”

The Thursdays at the U talks are live-streamed and posted at each week.

Wojahn can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *