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Standards at a Glance

Manual of Accreditation Standards for Adventure Programs, 6th 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:  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.

1.01 (A) The curriculum is developed and taught in accordance with the institution's stated mission, goals for instruction, and intended outcomes.

For example, the institution may have a liberal arts mission that all degree programs are expected to support by including critical thinking, writing, or global citizenship knowledge and skills. Or, the institutional mission may include service to the community. Consequently, curriculum topics, course sequence, and disciplinary and instructional methods are aligned with the mission of the institution.

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.

3.05 (T) Organizations in which clients are mandated or otherwise involuntarily enrolled into treatment acknowledge the limitations of the client's choice in enrollment and engage the client's participation in the therapeutic process to the fullest extent practical.

The program's activities, risks, and services are described accurately so that clients understand the nature of the program they are enrolled in and their rights and responsibilities. 

4.04 The program has a designated and functioning risk management committee that includes external membership.

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.

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.

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.”