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A trip into the woods for a good cause

  • David Gosling, a counselor education doctoral student,
    David Gosling, a counselor education doctoral student,  led a group of military veterans in an outdoor leadership experience trip at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School this past summer.  David Gosling
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When David Gosling Ph.D. ’20, a doctoral student in counselor education at the William & Mary School of Education, isn’t in the classroom, you’ll probably find him on the trails and waters of Maine. Gosling spent part of his summer leading Outward Bound trips at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS). While he’s usually leading groups of teenagers through expeditions involving canoeing and hiking, Gosling also led a trip for veterans in summer 2018.

The groups usually include 12 adventurers and two instructors, he said, adding that there are two locations: a sea base and a land base. The sea base is in Rockport, Maine, and the land base is Newry. Each instructor team creates their own trip plan, but most involve a combination of canoeing the lakes and hiking in the Appalachians.

“We teach the teenagers a lot of outdoor wilderness skills. The trip is about teamwork, accountability, and responsibility,” he explained. Gosling recalled being outdoors a lot as a child, so he feels at home on the trips, and with the adolescents. “I love working with teenagers, that’s probably where I feel most comfortable as a therapist. It’s a great opportunity to reach kids in a different capacity.”

The Outward Bound trips serve to move teenagers out of their usual routines.

 “I’d say virtually no kids come prepared for the experience. It shocks them out of their comfort zone and sense of complacency,” he said. Along the way, some of the teens may beg to go home or become emotional, but in the end they benefit from the experience, he said. The trip he led for military veterans and active duty differed in part because adults do not need as much instruction in outdoor or survival skills, he pointed out.

Gosling was there in August this year, which he described as a “sweet spot” when the water is warm enough for swimming and the bugs aren’t overwhelming. His tentative longterm plan involves teaching in Maine once he has completed his doctoral program, and spending his out-of-class time leading Outward Bound trips.