I have been working at Emerald Cove Outdoor Science Institute full-time (Less than a year)
1. The instructors. Your fellow instructors will be an amazing group of individuals from all kinds of different backgrounds and places. You will meet and make friends with many like-minded individuals, who all came here to have a positive impact on kids. You will be surrounded by people who all share the traits of the modern adventure-seeking nomad: passion for the outdoors, opinionated but open-minded, highly adaptable, patient, motivated, and an almost wholesale rejection of the 9-to-5 lifestyle; many of your coworkers will have worked all kinds of unconventional odd jobs often in the field or outdoors. You and your coworkers are all in it together, which builds a ton of comradery; this is a good thing, because you will come to rely on each other more than you might think.
2. The kids. The kids will be the most challenging, and most rewarding part of your job as an instructor. You will have the loud ones, the quiet ones, the smart ones, the dumb ones, the engaged ones, the disinterested ones, the popular ones, the shy ones, the athletes, the troublemakers, the California surfer bros, the whiners, the happy ones, the sad ones, the gossipers and everything in between. No matter what kind of week you have, they will be the first thing on your mind when you wake up, and the last thing on your mind when you go to sleep. There will certainly be moments of challenge with groups as diverse and rowdy as these young budding personalities can be. But the whole organization and program revolves around the kids and the program you will be responsible for giving them. On Friday, you will be so exhausted and tired that you think you could sleep for days. But next week you will wake up and go do it all over again.
3. Work and live outdoors in the mountains. As an instructor, you will experience the opportunity for growth in this field, you will hone the skills of teaching and group management. You will learn how to walk the line along proper risk management and allowance for fun, especially in the snow. You will live on-site during the week, either Camp Cedar Crest or Green Valley Lake, depending on what programs are being run and how many schools are visiting for the week. On the weekends you have the option to live at staff housing in a nearby community (Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs, etc.) for a modest price.
Overall, there are better companies out there for outdoor education.
1. Issues with upper management/leadership. You will find and experience the director and assistant directors clashing on various things. They all have great intentions, and are amazing individually. But, there will be instances in which one person tells you to do X only for another person to turn around and tell you, no, do Y instead. In my experience, communication was not this leadership team's strong suit. Directions were often unclear. Lead instructors also give mixed directions at times, and there was lots of micromanagement. Following the program schedule effectively often involved looking to your fellow instructors than relying on the leadership team.
2. Program structure. There is room for improvement in the program ECOS Institute runs with students. As a for-profit company, it will become clear that what matters to upper management is that what is done with the kids looks good on paper regardless of how it goes in practice. Being told that we have to take kids on academic hikes in the pouring rain enables them to advertise "we do this in all conditions!" but in practice the kids aren't really getting anything other than character building because you're making them hike in the rain when they're drenched and miserable (there will always be some kids who retain some of the information you present but it is far easier for them to focus when they're in the conditions where they can). You will sometimes find yourself having to teach several trails during the week and only getting one two hour break. You get paid for the hours you work, but the overnight hours when you're still technically on duty aren't paid hours.
3. Training. Training was extremely disorganized, and virtually non-existent. Even during the first weeks of having kids in the program, many of the instructors didn't really feel like they knew how the program worked or what they were supposed to do. We were basically given a schedule and expected to figure it out, where to go, etc. Fortunately they hired a bunch of smart college educated people so many managed to stick with it or just waited until instructions were given over radio. But reliance on leadership for instructions? Not worth betting on.
Advice to Management
More effective training, better communication, less infighting, make sure leadership members are all on the same page, improvements in workload/breaks. Possibly a rotating schedule for instructors on overnight cabin supervision and trail teaching.
I applied online. I interviewed at Emerald Cove Outdoor Science Institute.
Interview was ten minutes long and it seemed like they were looking for just anybody who would come work for this organization. Interviewer was very boring and did not even seem excited about the organization he was working for.
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