NOLS Instructor Spinning Towards Solutions
Chris Pyke Credits NOLS for Spinning towards
by Matt Lloyd
In early September 2000, Chris Pyke and Britta Bierwagen
began developing a new relationship with their tandem bicycle.
Chris and Britta are riding from Santa Barbara, Calif.,
across the United States. The purpose of the two-month trek
is to give presentations to students about endangered species
and conservation biology. The route will take Chris and
Britta through 12 southern states and will end in Washington
D.C. at the beginning of November.
Chris, a former NOLS instructor, calls the bike trip a
'front country' expedition that uses many of the same principles
of NOLS traditional backcountry expeditions.
Chris credits his project as being partially inspired by
Stephanie Habiff, a student on one of his NOLS educators
courses. Chris says that Stephanie had an amazing determination
and drive. Within nine months of Stephanie's course she
organized her own cross-country bicycle expedition to raise
money for breast cancer research.
Stephanie and her friend raised $35,000 during their 60-day
expedition. "Seeing Stephanie in action got me thinking.
It helped me realize that one very inspired person can really
make something happen--not a message we can make very often.
I realize it's a cliché and I never believed it until
I saw people making it happen."
"Moreover, I believe that the leadership, communications,
and logistical skills that Stephanie learned on her OEC
(Outdoor Educator Course) contributed directly to her success.
After seeing Stephanie, I went back in the woods on another
course and mulled things over. After that, I saw NOLS in
a new way. While most of our students will never get another
chance to lead their peers on a hard-core wilderness expedition,
all of them have daily opportunities to take personal initiative
in their everyday lives. The 'Front Country' expeditions
provide an awesome opportunity to make a difference in the
Chris talked these things over with Britta. She added additional
inspiration and helped make the project a reality. "Spinning
Toward Solutions" was born. The project leans heavily
on some elements of the NOLS curriculum including expedition
behavior, leadership, conflict resolution and transference. "Each
of these made a mark on our project," says Chris.
Chris thinks so highly of these NOLS concepts that he has
posted his thoughts on their web page, www.spinningsolutions.org/expeditions.htm.
Chris envisions applications of NOLS leadership as integral
to NOLS' on-going discussion about environmental studies
curriculum. This past April Chris wrote an article in an
issue of the NOLS newsletter describing some of the ways
that leadership skills at NOLS can be used more directly
for environmental studies. "I don't think that we need
to make our mark on environmental studies by teaching more
natural history; rather, we can develop the concept of environmental
leadership. The logical extension of my comments in the
newsletter is the idea of the ultimate in NOLS transference:
the Front Country expedition."
Chris and Britta have now launched a new interactive map
Web page. The page tracks the route of Chris and Britta
across the country and provides click-able links to conservation
resources including ecoregions and locations of special
interest. If you are interested in finding out more about
Chris and Britta's trek across the U.S. and Spinning towards
Solutions please check out www.spinningsolutions.org.
NOLS has provided a generous financial contribution to
Chris and Britta's effort as part of the school's commitment
to outdoor education and environmental leadership. Chris
and Britta hope that students along their route will look
to organizations like NOLS for the skills and techniques
necessary for turning environmental concern into conservation
Facts About the Trip
- 3300 miles of tandem bicycling without
- 12 states
- 750 GLOBE schools within 15 miles of our
- thousands of GLOBE kids
- for more information check out www.spinningsolutions.org
About Chris and Britta
Chris Pyke is an ecologist with broad interests in conservation
biology, land-use planning, and ecosystem management. Chris
is an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School.
Chris holds a bachelor's degree in geology and a Master's
degree in geography. Chris is a Ph.D. student in geography
with an emphasis in wetlands ecology, Geographic Information
Systems, and conservation planning.
Britta Bierwagen is a conservation biologist with active
interests in endangered species research and land use issues.
She has a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry. Britta
works at the National Center for Ecological Synthesis and
Analysis as the Kids Do Ecology and outreach program coordinator
as part of a graduate internship. Britta is currently pursuing
a Ph.D. at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science