Manual of Accreditation Standards for Adventure, Experiential, and Therapeutic Adventure Programs, 5th edition
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Philosophical, Educational, and Ethical Principles
Section 1. Philosophy and Education
Section 2. Ethical Principles
Chapter 2. Program Governance
Section 3. Program Governance
Chapter 3. Program Management, Operations, and Oversight
Section 4. Program Oversight and Management of Activities
Section 5. Human Resources: Staff Selection, Hiring,
Training and Supervision
Section 6. Transportation
Section 7. Equipment, Nutrition, and Hygiene
Section 8. Venue Selection and Appropriateness
Section 9. Environment and Culture
Section 10. International Considerations
Chapter 4. Technical Activities - Land
Section 11. Hiking, Camping, and Backpacking
Section 12. Climbing Activities
Section 13. Manufactured Climbing Walls
Section 14. Bicycle Touring and Mountain Biking
Section 15. Caving
Section 16. Horseback Riding and Pack Animals
Section 17. Winter Activities
Section 18. Running
Section 19. Initiative Games and Problem-Solving Exercises
Section 20. High and Low Challenge Courses
Section 21. Tree Climbing
Chapter 5. Technical Activities - Water
Section 30. Flat and White water Canoeing, Kayaking, and Rafting
Section 31. Sea Kayaking
Section 32. Sailing
Section 33. Snorkeling
Section 34. SCUBA Diving
Section 35. Swimming and Wading
Chapter 6. Technical Activities - Miscellaneous
Section 40. Solos
Section 41. Service Projects
Section 42. Unaccompanied Activities
Section 43. Incidental Activities
Appendix 1. Glossary of Terms
Sample of Standards
1.01 Adventure activities are selected and used in accordance with the organization’s stated mission, goals for instruction, and intended outcomes.
Explanation: Learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences or activities are used intentionally to promote learning, personal growth, or positive change. Consequently, activities selected and educational methods employed are sound and aligned with the mission of the organization.
Goals, objectives and/or outcomes for the program have been determined and have been communicated to the staff and participants. Activities are then designed to achieve the outcomes of the program. Activities can be varied and adapted as necessary to offer appropriate opportunities for learning and change. The effectiveness of activities is dependent on proper assessment of participant needs and abilities.
2.02 Staff conduct their work with competence, and practice within the boundaries of that competence.
Explanation: This standard does not address staff qualifications; rather, it addresses ethical standards by which staff conduct themselves. Staff strive to maintain high standards of quality and performance in their work; seek appropriate education; participate in ongoing training; maintain current knowledge; hold appropriate credentials; and exercise reasonable judgment in the conduct of their work. Staff also recognize the boundaries of their competence and do not provide services outside of those boundaries. Staff provide services only after undertaking appropriate education; participating in ongoing training; and seeking appropriate supervision, consultation, or advice where necessary. When practicing in areas where standards or guidelines do not exist, staff take reasonable steps to develop the skills necessary to practice or provide services.
3.05 The organization's activities and services are described accurately so that clients and potential clients understand the nature of the organization's services and can make informed choices to participate.
Explanation: All program marketing and/or enrollment material is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis in order to make sure it is clear, complete, and accurate and is presented in a manner that is understandable by the participants, for which it is intended.
4.04 The program has a designated and functioning risk management committee.
Explanation: A risk management committee provides a mechanism for providing oversight to the program’s risk management planning, implementation and performance. The intent is to provide a system of checks and balances to the organization's risk management program. This is often achieved by combining program expertise (employees) and outside (non-employee) perspectives, which help to strengthen the organization as a whole. An effective committee has a representative mix of individuals including program staff and advisors such as other outdoor educators, land managers, doctors, and lawyers. For example, if an organization works with a special population, such as youth at risk, it would be reasonable to expect that a therapist or social worker might sit on the committee. A risk management committee meets regularly and minutes are kept from each meeting.
4.13 The program has a written field emergency action plan that addresses steps to be taken in the field and/or during initial response.
Explanation: Having pre-established procedures for responding to and managing emergency situations helps minimize confusion and miscommunication during crisis periods. An emergency action plan may be one inclusive document or be a collection of documents that address specific aspects of emergency response and management. Emergency procedures need to reflect local conditions and the program’s capabilities.
The emergency action plan includes, but is not limited to, first aid protocols, field notification procedures for leaders to contact management or request assistance, evacuation procedures for self evacuation and/or requesting additional assistance such as helicopters or other agencies, procedures for contacting area emergency medical services, and serious injury or fatality protocols.
5.05 Upon hiring, the program has a system for orienting and/or training new staff.
Explanation: The organization has a system to help orient new employees to the program's mission, activity goals and objectives, and any other training one might reasonably expect an employee to receive given his/her job duties. Prior to working in the field, staff understand how the organization conducts its activities, and they know what is expected of them.
6.07 Vehicles are maintained and serviced in a manner consistent with prudent and reliable operation.
Explanation: Motor vehicles used by adventure programs are often subject to hard use from multiple drivers, rough roads, and high mileage. Vehicles are maintained on a regular service schedule by reputable mechanics. Records and/or receipts of service work are kept on file.
9.01 The program follows written guidelines or principles for minimizing environmental impacts when conducting activities.
Explanation: The organization follows the principles of Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics when conducting activities on public or private lands or waters away from facilities. The organization can adapt Leave No Trace principles in documents specific to their purposes or simply utilize the educational materials available from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
11.02 The program has an explicit and appropriate curriculum for hiking, camping, and backpacking.
Explanation: There are explicit educational or instructional objectives for this activity that address topics or skills taught, expected participant standards of performance, and appropriate assessment of participant abilities and understanding. Curriculum topics might include, but are not limited to, learning to recognize environmental hazards, hiking on or off trail, dressing for the environment, camp craft and cooking, and maintaining/repairing equipment.
12.07 Participants are given a safety briefing prior to the activity or outing.
Explanation: Regardless of the program’s mission, participants should be briefed prior to the activity. This briefing might include, but is not limited to, expectations for behavior, a discussion of the goals and objectives, assessment and evaluation criteria, and safety rules. If applicable, expectations regarding risk management, inherent risks, and food, water, and clothing requirements should be discussed.
17.01 Staff who lead activities in or near potential avalanche terrain are appropriately skilled and knowledgeable in avalanche hazard evaluation, route finding, travel skills and rescue techniques.
Explanation: In the event a group will be traveling near snow slopes that could potentially avalanche, at least one of the instructors should be trained in avalanche hazard evaluation. A snow slope that is considered potentially hazardous is one of 25 degrees (20 degrees in highly unstable conditions) or greater or is not actively groomed and/or manipulated to reduce the risk of avalanche. Appropriate avalanche hazard evaluation skills include an ability to recognize and evaluate terrain features, weather conditions, snowpack structure and the human factor.
Appropriate training might include, but is not limited to, a Level I avalanche hazard evaluation and rescue workshop.
19.01 The program has written policies and procedures for the conduct of initiative games and problem-solving exercises.
Explanation: Specific guidelines that staff and/or participants are expected to follow—such as supervision requirements, staff to participant ratios, and code of conduct—are easily accessible to and used by all staff and participants.
30.04 Adequate supervision is provided for flat and white water canoeing, kayaking, and rafting.
Explanation: Staff provide appropriate supervision of participants and oversight of the activities based on the skill, number, and experience of participants, and environmental hazards. The program has clear expectations for when direct supervision (staff present) is required and under what circumstances (if any) participants can be indirectly supervised (see section 42 for standards for unaccompanied activities). Staff understands these expectations.
Visual supervision is essential for beginners and/or for individuals unfamiliar with the activity. Visual supervision is also appropriate when participants could deviate from the intended route in rapids, or when running rapids “duckling style.”