HI USA’s long-running Outdoor Hostel Adventure (OHA) programs are all about giving Bay Area residents a chance to explore, appreciate, and learn about the wonders of the environment and our relationship with it through hands-on experience. Whether it’s a day of guided tide-pooling for a group of school children or an educational night hike for adults, OHA offers endless opportunities for travelers of all ages to get in touch with nature. Our new Northwest Educational Programs Manager, Josh Kerber, has big plans to expand OHA opportunities for hostellers, especially adults who are looking to add an adventurous element to their stay at our scenic hostels. We spoke to Josh about how he’s added his personal touch to the program.
So what is OHA all about?
At the absolute root of it I would say it’s about being able to provide an authentic outdoor experience to folks who otherwise don’t get the opportunity to do that. Oftentimes that’s youth who are living in and around the city and taking them to a natural environment that’s perhaps right in their proverbial back yard. We give them the opportunity to just be a kid out in the field with their friends, but with an underlying didactic experience to it.
How have you added the Josh flavor to OHA?
I think after the naturalist training [naturalists are the guides that take groups out into the field] next week the Josh flavor will be taken to the next level. This program has been around for 30 years, so it’s got a lot of history that I greatly value and appreciate. My job, my ability to be here, wouldn’t exist without all that effort that people put into making OHA be here. With that being said I think what I’ve been able to do is bring structure to what’s been there and really highlight the awesome things that we do.
So what do you think is that next level?
To me, that next level is reaching a broader audience, so not just the fourth to sixth grade, which has sort of been our traditional demographic, but being able to take it out to young adults and folks in their twilight years. It’s not just a matter of getting them out on the trails anymore, it’s about it being an incredible, memorable experience that really adds to their hostel experience. How that’s going to be implemented from an administrative level is by really beefing up our curriculum and empowering the naturalists to be able to implement it out in the field.
Tell us a little more about your curriculum plans.
The curriculum plans are going to be able to take something that can be pretty dense material and put it on a level that’s adaptable for anyone from a second grader who’s outside for the first time, to a senior citizen that’s recalling high school science class. And so my goal with these updates is to put that type of material on a level where the naturalists are able to adapt it to all ages and all stages of life.
Why do you think it’s important to have adult programs?
Well, learning is a never ending process. There’s no “I’ve finished the book” type of thing, at least in my humble opinion. It’s something that’s always ongoing and I love the humility that comes as a result of that. I think adults of all ages seek that out on some level. We all want to learn because knowledge is power, and not power in a sense of being able to control other things and other people, but power to be able to enhance your own well-being.
How do you think that the different locations play into your big plans?
The locations are a huge blessing. I mean we are given nature’s playground for us to be able to go out and enjoy. Right now HI Marin Headlands absorbs about 80% of our programs that come through, but also consequently has all our most developed curriculum, the most trails that we use, and I would say the most localized experience. I’m looking to be able to apply that same platform to HI Point Reyes and HI Point Montara, and then eventually to make it down south to HI Pigeon Point and HI Monterey and then one day into the city.
If there was one thing out of everything that you wish people could take away from an OHA experience what would that be?
That the learning process never ends as long as you’re able to remain receptive and open to that. Things can always change, your perspective can always change, and oftentimes can change for the better.