I was delighted to be able to take my place on a Leave No Trace Trainer Course at the weekend. It was fun and we learned stuff – a great combination!
I became aware of LNT over the last year and immediately wanted to get involved, particularly as a trainer. Leading walking groups to various remote spots in the West of Ireland and Poland (and, as of 2014, France), I have been conscious of not leaving traces of our presence behind us. But I wanted a structure and a “Cert” to my name would be even better.
LNT originates in the US and has at its core seven principles. They are :
1. Plan ahead and prepare;
2. Be considerate of others;
3. Respect farm animals and wildlife;
4. Travel and camp on durable ground;
5. Leave what you find;
6. Dispose of waste properly;
7. Minimise the effects of fire.
I like it because it’s simple, practical and clear. Really, it’s just a formalisation and, perhaps, modernisation of what is traditionally known as the “Country Code”. Thanks to Úna and Aodhnait for a good time.
Visit https://www.leavenotraceireland.org/ for more information on Leave No Trace in Ireland.
Leave No Trace Training
As of 2014, I have delivered LNT training to a variety of groups and organisations, including outdoor activity providers, scout groups and clubs of outdoors enthusiasts, e.g. walking clubs. Training is delivered partly indoors, but mostly outdoors. I use a number of props, to explain the principles of LNT, all in a fun atmosphere. Training for children and youths is tailored accordingly. I particularly enjoy the “leave what you find” and “minimise the effects of fire” modules. Learning to make a fire outdoors without scorching the ground beneath is a valuable lesson. Demonstrating what happens if we all go around picking beautiful flowers is no harm either. Great craic!
Here’s a report on a training day I delivered back in 2010
” Last week, I ran a very enjoyable Leave No Trace (LNT) awareness session for Bagenalstown Scouts down in Co. Carlow.
First up were around 28 beavers, aged from 4 to 8. They were great craic altogether, full of funny questions and highly competitive to get the chance to speak. Great fun.
As the highlight, I brought them outside to demonstrate the principle that we should “Leave What You Find”. To do this, I fill a hard plastic container with nice things, from chocolate bars to Actimel pots. But the trick is to have fewer items in the box than there are kids at the session. I send the kids around the corner to the container (which cannot be seen from where the group is standing) to each take one item only. Of course, by the time the last 6 children reach the box, there is nothing left for them.
Lesson ? If we all pull up one flower, or remove one rock from a megalithic tomb, etc., then there will be nothing left for future visitors.
This exercise doubles up as the “Dispose of Waste Properly” principle, by observing if any children drop their chocolate bar wrapper or empty Actimel pot on the ground.
For the 40 odd cubs and scouts present, aged between 8 and 15, the highlight is demonstrating how to make a camp fire without scorching the ground. This is done by using a fire blanket and building a 10 – 15 cm thick dome of small stones and gravel, with a volcano type 3 – 5 cm deep crater in the middle. Small sticks are laid across this depression, where the fire can start, thanks to the air beneath. Of course, sticks and other materials should be taken from where they lie around in nature, rather than butchered off living trees.
An interactive and educational evening for these scouts, despite the cold Carlow night air.
[ And, yes, of course I had something nice in reserve for the 6 ‘guinea pig’ beavers who got nothing out of the container ! ] ”
Leave No Trace Training – Resources for Kids
Here, I am going to give you some ideas for teaching the principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) outdoor ethics programme to children. I’ll go through the seven principles one by one. If part of your event is indoors, then try to use photos to illustrate points, preferably in a slide show. Even outdoors, a laptop may be used, weather permitting.
Running an event like this requires more than one supervising adult.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Take photos of various items, from a woolly hat to a pair of shorts. Print the photos off, maybe three per A4 page and then laminate the pages. Cut the laminated page into the three parts, each part with a photo. You might make a total of some 30 photos.
The photos should be a mix of sensible and less sensible items for being active outdoors. Examples : matches, lighter, novel, map, sandals, hiking boots, banana, water melon, etc.
Spread the photos on the ground, or the floor if you are indoors. Ask the children to choose, say, 10 items only from the 30, that they would bring with them when on a camping trip or scouts outing. Discuss what should be brought and what not.
2. Be Considerate of Others
Ask the children to form groups of, say, 5. Then ask them who they should be considerate of, when outdoors. Have each group give you just one example, so the following groups can participate. Hear them reply with farmers, group leaders, each other, other walkers, other campers, themselves, bus driver, etc.
3. Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife
Depending on the age of the children, have some pretend they are an animal of their choice – one that is found in their area. Some will choose to be a sheep, others a fox, cow, bear, whatever.
Then have the others pretend to be adult humans (not children). Tell them to begin to do things that are not nice to the animals. Watch as they scare the animals, shoot the animals, shout at the animals, etc. Then discuss.
4. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
If you are outdoors and have some mucky ground available to you, all the better. Split the children into groups of, say, 5. Choose one group and place them so that the muddy area is situated between them and where you think they might choose to hide (e.g. trees, a building or a hilly area). Ask that group where they would go if they wanted to hide and how they would get there. Watch them go and wait for them to be hidden. Then choose another group and ask them to go find the original group.
Call both groups back and discuss, with all children, any tracks they have left behind and the paths they should have chosen.
5. Leave What you Find
Take a re-usable hard plastic container that can hold enough niceties (chocolate bars, Actimels, sweets in wrappers, etc.) for around 80% of the children you have. All items should not be the same – try to have at least three different types of goodies – and all should have some kind of wrapper or packaging.
Place the container outside the view of the children (behind a tree, for example) and split them into groups of, say, 5. One group at a time is sent to pick one item each out of the container and keep it and move to a second location. By the time the last 20% of children get to the container, it will be empty. They will get nothing.
Discuss this idea of taking things from nature (e.g. flowers) and how it would mean there would be nothing left for future visitors. Always have a nice thing in reserve for the children who got nothing during the exercise. Allow the children to eat or drink whatever they got from the container.
6. Dispose of Waste Properly
Following the exercise above, retire to a different point and gather all the children together. Then select 4 or 5 of the best behaved children (you will certainly have identified them by now !). Ask them to return to the point where people consumed their food and collect any litter left behind. Discuss.
7. Minimise the Effects of Fire
Use a fire blanket of at least 1 m x 1 m in size. Split the children into groups of, say, 5. Ask some groups to gather whatever stony materials they can find that would help to build a mound of tiny stones, gravel, river bank sand, etc. If there is an upturned tree nearby, the stony sandy material from the root system underneath is also perfect. Ask other groups to gather very small sticks – but not to break any off living trees. Ask other groups to collect slightly larger sticks, again not from living trees.
Build a volcano-like mound on top of the fire blanket, using the stones and sandy materials. Then scoop out a crater in the middle, that is half as deep as the mound is high. The mound should be at least 15 cm high and the crater 6 to 8 cm deep. Place the small sticks across the top of the crater, with some dry grasses, if available. The pocket of air below those small sticks (in the mouth of the crater) will allow you to start the fire. Then begin to place the larger sticks across on top.
I am a registered trainer of Leave No Trace in Ireland. I strive to follow the principles of LNT each time I bring groups on guided walking holidays in Mayo. Contact me if you would like me to run a LNT Awareness session for your group.