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J-Term Offered Wilderness Emergency Training

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
January 20, 2010

Children from the Growing Places Daycare check out the quinzee, or snow shelter, made by students in wilderness training care course offered during the J-term.

A course co-taught by Brent Bell, assistant professor of outdoor education, did just what proponents of adding a January term to the academic calendar hoped it would: it gave students the opportunity to take a class that helps create future opportunities.

Students who want to work in outdoor education or summer camps have to be certified as wilderness first responders. Successful completion of KIN686, wilderness emergency care, taught by Bell and Nathan Duclos of the Durham Ambulance Corps, provided the chance to obtain that certification.

More than 400 students enrolled in 27 undergraduate and eight graduate courses offered during UNH’s first J-term, which was approved for trial by the Faculty Senate to see if there was a way to modify the calendar so students could take courses that didn't fit with their fall and spring schedules or that allowed them to take a course that better prepared them for spring courses.

Assistant professor Brent Bell at the entrance of the quinzee he and students built in front of Morrill Hall.

Wilderness first responders are a step below EMTs, Bell says. In an urban setting, the goal is to get a patient to the hospital within an hour. In the wilderness environment, that time can be hours or days. First responders need to know what to do in those situations.

“The course trains students to work in environments far from medical care or when care can’t be reached for long periods of time,” Bells says.

Students were able to act out scenarios involving injuries in cold temperatures. They took turns being the patient and the responder.

“There was a lot of stomping around outside,” Bell says. “That’s the benefit of a J-term course, being able to do it in January. It really helps to have cold weather; the feedback loop is really quick in the winter. If you do not manage your own self care, for instance lose a mitten, the feedback response is really quick.”

Part of the course involved building a quinzee, or snow shelter, in front of Morrill Hall. A quinzee provides protection from the weather and a place to sleep in an emergency.

“In the wilderness, effective group management is as important as effective patient care, so one way to do both is directing the group to construct shelters and establish a camp,” Bell says. “These shelters are easy to build and strong in the cold. If an injured hiker has to wait for a rescue in the winter, the quinzee offers a semi-controlled environment to wait for help.”

The benefits of the J-term for this type of course lead Bell to believe it will become a standard he’ll teach every year.

“This is another opportunity for students to get certified at UNH, and to have more options than those offered during the traditional semesters, “Bell says. “The J-term can help free up their schedule.”

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