Teaching Leave No Trace


Steps for Earning the Leave No Trace Awareness Award

  1. Individual Scouts, Scouters, or units apply training available in this workbook and complete requirements for the Leave No Trace Awareness Award.
  2. Complete the application and submit it to the local council service center or resident camp trading post. 
  3. The Leave No Trace Awareness Award patch, No. 8630, is available at council service centers and resident camp trading posts.

Some groups with extensive backcountry experience may already practice the Leave No Trace principles as a part of their culture. Others might only "car camp." Some may do a lot of backpacking but have no knowledge of Leave No Trace and consequently may have to overcome a few bad habits. To complicate the task, even experienced groups will probably have new members who have not been exposed to Leave No Trace principles and skills. 

The first step in putting together a training program for your group is to honestly understand where you are. Start by asking yourself and your youth participants the following questions:

  • Do we plan ahead for all circumstances and go prepared?
  • Do we always travel and camp on durable surfaces? Do we know what that means? Do we know what surfaces are not durable?
  • Do we know how to properly dispose of our human waste and wastewater?
  • Do we minimize site alterations and leave natural items and artifacts for others to discover?
  • Do we minimize our campfire impact?
  • Do we only observe wildlife, or do we disturb them with our actions?
  • Are we always considerate of other campers?
  • Do we understand and follow the Leave No Trace principles?

Honest answers to questions like these will help determine where your group stands in the process of learning Leave No Trace principles. Having established where you are will help you determine where to start your Leave No Trace training. Learn those skills and ethics that are needed from this handbook to help you complete the requirements for earning the Leave No Trace Awareness Award.

This handbook has been designed for flexibility in meeting your needs. Teach as little or as much as your group can handle in a session. You may have already taught participants some of these skills. With this design you can determine your group needs and go to that part of the handbook. Work these activities into your weekly meetings and monthly campouts to prepare for successful completion of requirements for the Leave No Trace Awareness Award.

Tips for Teaching

Make It an Adventure!

It's easy to help your group learn Leave No Trace skills in a fun and interesting atmosphere. The following tips provide insight into the teaching and learning process.

Be Prepared

Advance preparation of meetings helps ensure a quality experience for you and your audience. Some activities require you to assemble materials, to have participants come prepared, or to select special meeting locations. Keep the following in mind:

  • Find a relaxing spot and review the entire activity ahead of time. Reviewing will give you time to familiarize yourself with the necessary information, assemble materials, choose a meeting location, or make assignments prior to teaching the activity. Carefully reading this information will keep you one step ahead of your audience members and allow you to support them in understanding each new Leave No Trace principle.
  • Assemble materials ahead of time. The materials needed for each activity are readily available and require minimum time to gather.
  • Make arrangements for the meeting location in advance. Be sure there is adequate space, lighting, and other important elements to help make the participants comfortable.
  • Assign tasks before the meeting, and give individuals plenty of time and direction to complete their assignments in advance.

Teaching and Learning Styles—Diversity Is the Spice of Life

Each of us teaches and learns with our own unique style. Anyone who has worked with people knows that different people are inspired by different teaching and learning techniques. Most young people generally prefer active, hands-on, minds-on learning. These Leave No Trace activities have been written with the following styles in mind.

  • Visual learner. The visual learner likes to learn through seeing—video, chart, picture, model.
  • Auditory learner. The auditory learner likes to learn through listening—lecture, discussion, debate.
  • Kinesthetic learner. The kinesthetic learner likes to learn by using his or her body—dance, drama, movement, hiking.
  • Tactile learner. The tactile learner likes to learn through touching and feeling—hands-on activities and projects.
  • Experiential learner. The experiential learner likes to learn by experiencing the activity first-hand.

A Guide on the Side, Not a Sage on the Stage

People learn better when being guided to discover and think for themselves. Learning through lectures from the "expert" is seldom interesting and easily forgotten. When teaching Leave No Trace, remember to

  • Encourage involvement. Allow individuals to discover and think for themselves, rather than providing them with all the answers.
  • Learn together. You will have some foundational knowledge because you have reviewed the necessary information. Allow yourself to learn along with your group as you experience each activity. You do not have to be a Leave No Trace expert.

The activities in this handbook are designed to allow participants to discover for themselves the importance of Leave No Trace and how to apply the principles.