Top 10 Skills I Learned Working at The Outdoor Campus

Top 10 Skills I Learned Working at The Outdoor Campus

By Lydia Olson

For a lot of full time workers, skills like interpersonal communication, team work, time management and organization are necessary for day to day work. At The Outdoor Campus, I definitely use these skills but I found out real fast that my skill-set would be  much different than expected.  Working outdoors with a lot of different ages, especially children, I knew I would have to switch gears from previous work environments.  Even though I had prepared myself for this change in pace, I was still surprised by the unique and specific skills I had to use almost every day at TOC. I learned a lot this summer and I want to share with the world my Top 10 Skills that have come in handy for me while working at The Outdoor Campus.

  1. Fish Cleaning

When I was younger, my great uncle taught me how to clean fish. I love to clean fish, but I never imagined that I would actually teach children and adults this skill someday. Teaching fish cleaning has been quite the experience, especially with children. When you have 5-7 kids all at once, holding knives, it can make you a little nervous. Once it was all said and done, seeing the proud smiles of these kids made it super rewarding, and definitely worth the stress.

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2. Setting up a huge archery net alone with gusting winds

My very first day working here I was taught how to set up the archery range for class. I was thinking, “this net can’t be that heavy”, but oh boy was I wrong. I actually learned that it takes two people to put up this net, and it is still a little challenging. So you can imagine what I was feeling putting the net up by myself in what felt like a tornado.

3. Dodging hooks while fishing with children

Anyone who works with children will tell you it is hard work. Now add fishing hooks; this is a whole new level of dangerous. When I teach younger children to fish I always say “if you want me to put the bait on for you I will, but you have to wait in line”. Well usually there is never a line that is actually formed (it is more like a cluster of children fighting their way to the front to get their hooks baited). I think I have become a pro at dodging hooks this summer; I’ve had a lot of practice. Now it is time for me to practice dodging fish, kids still do not know how to keep those away from my face.


4. Being able to fix a fishing pole in under 2 minutes

Knowing how to fix a fishing pole is a great advantage to have while working here, but an even bigger advantage is being able to do it in less than two minutes. We have a lot of fishing classes here and with those classes come a lot of broken poles. Fixing each pole under two minutes enables me to move onto the next task quickly.

5. Wood Burning

One of the other interns introduced me to wood burning; she was making signs for the classroom doors.  At the time it looked so easy, I was excited to try it. Well it is actually quite difficult to do. I have gradually gotten a little better, but my skills are in need of some improvement. I have come a long way, but I am nowhere close to being a pro.

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6. Flipping Kayaks

Whenever I go kayaking, whether it is here at TOC or on a river elsewhere, I am highly skilled in flipping kayaks over. If you ever find yourself tipped over in the water, I am the one to call. But if I don’t answer, call one of the other interns. Ha.


7. Understand all types of jokes; aka Derek jokes

Here at TOC we like to have a lot of fun. There are quite a few odd jokes that circulate through the group, but no matter how awkward they are, these jokes always make us smile. Here are just a few jokes that have stuck with the group.


Hum.. you’d be good at Plinko

*Speaking to a CPR dummy* Wow, tastes like pepperoni pizza 

8. Conquering your fear on a daily basis. AKA not screaming when seeing snakes.

Whenever I see a snake, I am easily frightened. I don’t think it is entirely because of the snake, but the actual surprise of seeing them that gets me every time. I know they do good things to the environment and I wouldn’t wish harm on them, but when they come slithering by me it takes every ounce of me not to jump and scream. I have finally reached that point where I don’t freak out when I see them, but it came one class too late.


9. Be able to catch the frog on the first time in the aquarium

At The Outdoor Campus we teach a lot frog classes. We like to bring out live frogs to show the kids. But, did you know frogs are super slimy and quite difficult to catch? Our frog has escaped many times and trying to catch it can be somewhat stressful. But if you are like me and are able to catch the frog on the first escape, you are succeeding in life.

10. Using a ratchet strap

Before working here I was able to use a ratchet strap it would just take me a second to remember how it works. Well after having to use one a lot I have the skills to just pick it up hook it all up and strap whatever needs to be strapped down.



Growing in Nature Through My Summer Internship; an Ode to The Outdoor Campus

Growing in Nature Through My Summer Internship; an Ode to The Outdoor Campus

By Dana LeVan

Hi, a quick introduction about me. My name is Dana LeVan and I am a double Major in  Music Education and Spanish at Augustana University. I was born and raised near Sioux Falls and I am currently a Naturalist Intern at The Outdoor Campus. Despite growing up in a suburb of Sioux Falls, I was not too familiar with the Outdoor Campus before this summer. Spending just three months working here, I have learned more about the outdoors than in my entire life growing up.


Quite frankly, the extent of my outdoor education in my earlier years was camping with my older siblings and Dad (cooking s’mores and going fishing occasionally). Before my summer Internship here at The Outdoor Campus, it was my dad who introduced me to all things nature. He was the one that got my family and I excited about spending time outside, camping, and enjoying time with one another. My dad was really passionate about hunting too and he was excited for me to get older so he could take me out in the field. When I got to a comfortable age to start seriously participating in these endeavors, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer and then sadly passed away about a year later. For a while, my love for the outdoors was put on pause, and I found new passions that filled my life (i.e. music and theater).


The day I received an email from Augustana letting me know about summer job opportunities, my friends were surprised by my strong interest in teaching this summer at The Outdoor Campus. But for me, I was looking forward to learning a new set of skills for myself, as well as gain real teaching experience; so I decided to apply. Lo and behold, I was interviewed and offered a job for the summer, teaching outdoor skills and conservation to a variety of ages.

Deciding to apply for this job is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my college career. My Outdoor Campus co-workers and I work together every day to carry out the mission here,

“To provide education about outdoor skills, wildlife, and conservation and management practices of South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks to all ages in order to preserve our outdoor heritage.”

38752997_1872483933060231_2069778644414234624_nDancing because I love outdoor cooking!

I was one of those people who did not utilize my resources growing up to learn about wildlife and outdoor activities, so now, it is such an honor to provide an outdoor education to people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to do so, (before this summer, this included me).  I have a better understanding of how important it is to have an outdoor education and I have grown to have so much pride for South Dakota, a place I have called home for 20 years. I watch The Outdoor Campus live out its mission every day in my own life alongside all of those who learn and grow here too.


Fixing fishing poles with my co-workers/ friends

dana blog post 4As you can see the Outdoor Campus has helped my grandma be more outdoorsy too 😉

This job has given me a community of co-workers and friends who support each other as we develop in our professional skills and as individuals. Thank you to all of those involved here at TOC, who help me and the students like me gain memories and important life skills. To my co-workers: You may not often be aware of what you do or perhaps you don’t think other people notice your support, but they do, and it is always appreciated.

Dana Blog post 1My wonderful TOC co-workers and I.