Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Learning on the move

One of the most powerful learning tools at any symposium is the paddle tour. When there is a good instructor to student ratio people can cruise along, paddle up next to someone, and talk paddling. It's a more informal setting and folks can pretty much work on whatever they want to, as long as it involves going forward.....for the most part. On Saturday morning all the tours were canceled due to wind and waves with the exception of one 'kinda tour', the Learning on the Move class. I was assigned to that class along with SKOAC crony JeromeR. Actually we were somewhat conned into it the night before,shortly after happy hour, when Mr. Blades kept asking, "C'mon Olson, whaddya wanna teach tomorrow?? How about learning on the move with your buddy?" I figured why not, at least I'd probably stay dry in that class.

The big water had Keith Wikle and Danny Mongo practically giddy in anticipation of their surf class, as were the Wind and Waves and Paddling the Bumps folks, Ben Lawry and Steve Scherer. The group Jerome and I drew were mainly beginners,a few intermediates, with a couple long time paddlers who said they were 'self taught'. Some had not heard of the 'paddlers box' and others were just brushing up on some skills and wanted to paddle rather than float around and focus on one activity for two hours. We paddled around and did some forward stroke stuff, edging, sweeps, stern rudders, that sort of thing, and then we began the half mile paddle out to the end of the breakwater.

That half mile paddle was an eye opener for me. Varying skill levels means keeping the more advanced paddlers engaged and interested while not pushing the beginners too far beyond their comfort zone. The other part of that is keeping the group together. The big challenge however, occured when we it the big water at the end of the breakwater. Waves were breaking on the outside wall and water was coming over to the sheltered side. 3-5 footers were wrapping around the end of the breakwater and the two above mentioned classes were out there playing already, making for a noisy, convoluted, and very exciting environment. We suggested that one or two of the folks stick their noses out at a time and that was working well until one of the 'self taught' guys, a rather large fellow, went barreling out into the waves. It became apparent that turning around would be difficult for him and Jerome gave chase while I stayed with the group. All was well and we were pretty happy we didn't have to put the guy back into his boat, which would have been interesting.

It was a good afternoon. Once again the coaches, at least me, seemed to learn as much as the students and group dynamics was pounded into my head in a way that makes it easy to remember. I most certainly won't get to put the lessons into play with my fall trip buddies that we're meeting in Munising, because any attempt at group discipline there would be like herding cats. Once again lessons were learned and the learning went both ways. As I said before, it was a good symposium.

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