Before You Go
There are a number of variables that go into a BCM journey before it ever starts. Because the backcountry offers so many twists and unforeseen happenings, it is best to start getting to know your fellow leaders before you set out on the trail together. The Instructor will take the initiative to start the communication through calls/e-mails to all other adult leaders. These calls are get-to-know-you calls so that everyone will feel comfortable with the other adults on the water. If all adult leaders are in the same city, face-to-face meetings and/or pre-expedition activities are effective and encouraged. The Instructor can answer a lot of the questions that new volunteers and agency leaders have about the BCM program because of his/her experience. BCM may also help facilitate these discussions.
Some important aspects to cover include necessary gear, on- and off-water responsibilities, and general BCM guidelines/expectations. As the team gets to know each other, the Instructor can start to create roles for each adult leader based on past experience and skill sets. Who will carry the medical kits? Is one person going to be more comfortable teaching the teens how to set up tents? Is somebody especially passionate about photography? This type of basic planning and role assignment will ease the first few days of the experience and everyone more comfortable as they know what is expected of them.
The youth agency leader can explain the background that the teens are coming from and help prepare the other adult leaders to give them the best possible experience. For volunteers living in the same geographical area as the youth agency, it is important to get together with the teens before the expedition. This eases some of the fears that both adults and teens (and their families) have about spending such an intense period of time with complete strangers.
Meeting with Youth
Spending some time at the youth agency you have been placed with or in pre-expedition outings will give you a starting block for understanding who the teens on your expedition are. Talking to the teens at an orientation session, for example, is also a great opportunity to share more about yourself and why you wanted to volunteer for a program like BCM’s. Speaking with the group about your past wilderness experiences and your life in general can increase enthusiasm and lessen any anxiety they may be feeling. Building rapport while discussing everyone’s expectations for the week-long journey will set the stage for a meaningful and memorable expedition.
Pre-Expedition Paddling and Other Day Outings
Getting together with the youth and youth organization staff before the expedition to do a practice day on the water is crucial. This is a great way to make everyone more comfortable with each other and with the idea of being on the water together. It’s also an important activity to teach some basic paddling skills and techniques. Another effective activity is to spend a few hours together doing icebreakers and trust-building games from BCM’s Handbook.
Gaining the trust of the parents/guardians and other family members is also a very important aspect of the BCM program. An effective measure might be to participate in an information meeting with parents to address any questions or concerns they may have. The goal here is to gain parental trust and make them feel comfortable in sending their teens into the wilderness for a week. If possible, also try to make a copy of your credentials available to all parents and make clear to them WHY you volunteer with BCM.
Other Pre-Expedition Considerations include:
All adult team members are required to participate in training sessions. This will be online, in person, and in some cases via conference calls, depending on locations. BCM trainings are mandatory for new and returning adult team members and will help crystallize our objectives, curriculum and policies, and will help set you up for a positive experience on an expedition.
All adult team members are required to read and understand the Handbook, which is distributed in June. The Handbook outlines various information that will be helpful to you on your journey with us, and includes BCM guidelines and policies, curriculum, lessons and traditions, and resources to help you work with urban, under-resourced youth.