Month: April 2015

DSC02161My education philosophy perpetually changes the more I learn and experience. One of my core foundations that has remained throughout my entire professional career is that every child should have the opportunity to engage in meaningful play outside. In general, this can only be achieved if you are not afraid to get a little dirty.

I once had an art teacher that prior to making her first brush stroke would rub paint all over her hands and shirt. She claimed that in the past she was cautious about getting paint on herself while working which proved to be a creative distraction. She reasoned that if she was covered in paint before she started she could devote 100% of herself to her work.  This idea has resonated with me since and I apply the same rationale to working outside.

Throughout the years I have noticed more and more youth I work with are a bit timid and apprehensive when first exposed to an outdoor classroom. I believe some of this apprehension is due to that fact that getting dirty outside is sadly becoming less acceptable in the urbanized world.

To nip it in the bud, I like to ask the groups I work with to pick up a bunch of dirt and rub in into 20140807_123922their hands. This request is usually followed by nervous giggling and darting eyes; checking to see if mom or dad is around the corner.  I always tell my students, and my adult chaperones, that today it is okay to get dirty and if they overcome the anxiety of getting a grass stain on their knee they will be able to take full advantage of the day, learn a valuable lesson or two, and maybe just maybe have a little fun while doing it.

I find that once they are comfortable with the fact that it is acceptable to get dirty, at least for the day, they truly start to relax, are more open to learning, and engage in meaningful play with one another and their surroundings. I believe kids need to be kids and we should be encouraging them to get outside and play. Parents and guardians be warned, if you send your child to Adventure Links they may just come home a little dirty, a bit tired, and a little bit more excited to interact with the natural world.

Read more about how getting dirty outdoors benefits kids

kyle halstead

-Kyle Halstead | Program Coordinator

4In addition to the amazing seasonal staff members I work with every year at Adventure Links, I also have the pleasure to work with an incredibly talented team of year-round administrative staff that often go overlooked as they work behind the scenes. Each of them is far too modest to boast about all of their accomplishments in our brief biographies or on our Facebook page, so let me take a moment to tell you just how awesome they all are.

Ashley Suntheimer is our Group Program Manager, and works with school, community, and corporate  groups to arrange their programs. For three years Ashley was an outstanding Instructor with Adventure Links, and it has truly been fascinating to see her grow from a recent college graduate to a seasoned professional. No one brings more enthusiasm and optimism to work every day than Ashley.

Adam Trautenberg was also an outstanding Instructor with Adventure Links before becoming our Marketing Director. In just a few short years, Adam has changed the entire look of Adventure Links. The website, our vehicles, all of our brochures and pamphlets look better than ever. On top of that, Adam still finds time to lead Sailing activities for our campers!

Kyle Halstead is our Program Coordinator and was also a fantastic Instructor for Adventure Links in 2012. When Kyle finished his first Instructor training and took our Instructor Skills Test, it was so flawless I used it as the answer key for all the other tests. By the end of 2012 we knew that we wanted Kyle to be a part of our year-round team because of his natural leadership, love of working with participants, and superior technical knowledge. After just one year as Program Coordinator Kyle has had an enormous impact on Adventure Links.

Danny Stevens is our Facilities and Fleet Director, and all around handy-man. When I met Danny I knew he was a jack of all trades, but I never really knew just how skilled he was until he and Kyle constructed our new paddling shed over the winter. In a matter of days, this new shed just appeared where before there was nothing. Some people will talk about a project for weeks or months, but Danny just gets the job done. Danny is a big reason why our site at Hemlock Overlook is looking better than ever.

Rachel Doody is one of the most dedicated outdoor education professionals I have ever met in my 12 years in the field, and I am so proud to be her Co-Director. After 18 years of running programs at Hemlock Overlook and over 5 years with Adventure Links, Rachel is still innovating, learning, and growing. I don’t have to ask what keeps her motivated after all this time, it is clear that her unwavering mission is to share her love for the natural environment with as many people as she possibly can.

Our owners, Anna and Austin Birch, provide the best possible situation for our team to succeed. I have always appreciated the way they provide mentoring and guidance to our team, but also allow for freedom and autonomy to make decisions and move the company forward. This entrepreneurial spirit empowers our leadership team to be creative, take chances, and make Adventure Links the best it can be.


mark-headshot-Mark Diedering | Summer Camp Director



Danny changing the cargo net on the high ropes course


This is my second spring at Adventure links. After a long winter here at the park, some of our new seasonal staff have arrived. It took me a little while to realize that one of the great aspects of my job was going to be meeting new people each season. Working with someone on small projects and training them on equipment and tools really allows you to get to know them quickly.
Remembering names is not one of my strong suits, especially when you are introduced to ten or so at one time. Meeting the staff and learning what their attributes will be for the upcoming season, as it applies to the facility and vehicles, sure does make it easier to remember.
Everyone has something positive to offer, and  that positive attitude and enthusiasm we can work together to get things done. Its hard to imagine a job where you would work with and see the same people month in/month out…or even year in/year out. The guarantee of meeting new faces and getting to know young people from all over the country sure is a nice perk.

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Staff working on a project in the field

danny-main-Danny Stevens | Facility and Fleet Director