The Gauge, issue 2: Training

This Issue

Over the past 2 years, I have noticed that training is something Grand Canyon Youth guides always want more of. You want more depth, more breadth, and more training on both soft and hard skills. In this issue of The Gauge we focus on TRAINING, specifically the 2017 pre-season training offered by Grand Canyon Youth: the Season Opener and the 2017 Training Trip.

Table of Contents

  1. Training at GCY: what we do and how.
  2. 2017 Pre-Season Training: Season Opener & Training Trip
  3. Program Directors’ Desks: Emergent Insects
  4. Risk Management Corner: Seizures and the follow-up from last issue
  5. Unique Guide Skills
  6. Looking Downstream

Training at GCY:

Who do we train:

The image below shows who, as GCY employees and volunteers, we train. The arrows indicate where, as guides, people come into the program and in what directions they will progress through the GCY guiding world.


What we train:

We want each group to be proficient at certain things and each stage in guiding can be seen as a rung on a ladder. When a guide is proficient in the skills for their current level, they have created a foundation from which to rise to the next level and continue learning and growing.

At GCY those rungs and what you should be proficient in are:


How do we train:

How do you learn GCY Magic or warehouse skills or interp? The Season Opener and Training Trip are ways, but we also get a lot of training done in less obvious ways. Our Policies & Procedures, reading the Guide Manual, reviewing pack lists, participating in the Kumbaya, and reading the PDP are all ways that training happens. Another key part of training at GCY comes from learning from your peers and the more experienced guides you are working with. This includes the end of trip debrief in the truck.

Also, a lot of training in the guiding world is based upon personal experience and personal discovery: asking questions, reading up on things that interest you, practicing your interp by giving talks on river trips. Did you know that GCY has a library in the Resource Room that you can check books out from? Interested in the geology on the San Juan? Find a book and check it out. Just don’t forget to return it!

2017 Training: Group Dynamics

The beginning of the season is coming up which means that the Season Opener and Training Trip are too. This year we will be focusing both of these training opportunities on group dynamics and the Season Opener and Training Trip will build off of each other. You do not have to go to both, but I would, of course, recommend that you do! Please let me know if you can or cannot make it to either. (That link is at the bottom of this section.)

Season Opener:

River Rampage Participants make tie-dye shirts as a group activity. (pic credit: Mark Allen)

The Season Opener will be on Saturday, February, 4 from 10 am – 4 pm at the GCY warehouse. We are splitting the day into 2-parts:

Part 1: 9-Noon, Pre-season orientation and what’s new around the warehouse. This will include all of the updates to the Policies & Procedures, rigging, and the like as well as a more in-depth discussion on our Duty to Report Policy lead by Emma.

Lunch: Noon-12:30, enjoy Fratelli’s pizza and have lunch with the Trip Coordinators.

Part 2: 12:30-4, workshop with Trip Coordinators: “How do we build group cohesion on the river?”

The afternoon will include a workshop with Dorrie Haymon about ways to form group cohesion through experiential and narrative exercises that we will do together as well as brainstorming ways we can do this on river trips.

Additionally, we are inviting the Trip Coordinators and Program Directors Megan and Jordan will facilitate a conversation between Guides and Trip Coordinators surrounding group creation and sustainment on GCY programs.

The goal of this time will be to foster discussion about creating and maintaining positive dynamics in a wilderness setting. This conversation will draw on everybody’s experiences from GCY or other trips to focus on 3 things:

  1. What are the expectations of Guides for Trip Coordinators and vice versa?
  2. How Guides and TC’s can work together to form group cohesion on the river?
  3. Some GCY programs only run between 1-4 days. How does our approach to group dynamics change to accommodate this shorter time frame?
  4. On Open Enrollment trips, what strategies do you employ to create a unique and inclusive culture for your participants?

Aprés/Social: TBD

2016-dd-dunn-school_-ryan-lindsey-066Dunn School participants, crew and TCs make block prints at camp on Diamond Down. (pic credit: Ryan Lindsey)

Training Trip Weekend:

2016-usj-training-trip_-walt-carr-374Learning from each other on the 2016 SJU Training Trip. This year we will focus on personal examples of group dynamics on our 2017 Verde River Training Trip. (pic credit for this and the one below: Walt Carr)

This years Training Trip is a weekend in Clarkdale, AZ, Friday, 24 March – Sunday 26 March where we will continue expanding upon our theme of group dynamics and cohesion. Our trip will begin at noon on Friday, 24 March and end around 4 on Sunday, 26 March.

Each guide who comes will need to bring 2 examples of group dynamics in action on a trip or program (GCY or otherwise) that they have been on:

  1. One example should be of a bad moment of group dynamics (i.e. cultural insensitivity, bullies, kids taking sides, acting out, etc.) and why you felt it happened.
  2. The second example should be of a good group dynamic moment when you or someone else was able to turn things around (i.e. fix it, redirect, recreate, etc.).

We will use these examples as the root of our discussions and scenarios while we are on the training trip. Please let me know your examples (general is fine, detailed is alright too) by Monday, 20 March.

Each day will start with an opener and/or game and end with a closer and/or activity. On Saturday we will float the Clarkdale town section of the Verde to prepare us for our Kinsey School programs this year. (Note, you will need to have seen this section before in order to guide on the Kinsey programs.) Each day we will use the examples you are bringing with you to start discussions and learn from. We will also be participating in WMI style scenarios surrounding group dynamics and what could possibly go wrong.

2016-usj-training-trip_-walt-carr-416Grand Canyon Youth will be providing the food, kitchen gear, fun & explorer box, guide kits, launch and camping fees, and and as many duckies as we can. (I’ll have a firmer number on that before the trip.)

You will need to provide your personal clothing and gear, your 2 examples, coffee cup and transportation from and back to GCY (carpooling is recommended). You can bring your own duckie or paddle board as well!

If you are coming up from Phoenix or Tucson for the weekend, consider carpooling with others from there and meet us in Clarkdale. Don’t worry about coming all the way to Flagstaff first!

Only can come for Saturday? That is fine, just let us know that we can expect you. You will need to be at our Group site by 8:00 am.

Please let me know your interest  by selecting the link below. I will follow-up with more details as the date gets closer.

While neither Season Opener or Training Trip are required, they will build off of each other and both will be super informative and fun. Click here to let us know if you can come to the Season Opener and/or Training trip by Wednesday, February 1. 

Program Directors’ Desk:

Welcome to the Program Directors’ Desk! Every issue, we (Jordan and Megan) will be bringing you information on the programmatic side of things – interp, games, educational resources, amateur and pro-tips, and much more. Please feel free to contact us ( with any questions, comments or ideas for future issues.

Let the learning continue!


Megan’s Desk:

Citizen Science Interp: Emergent Aquatic Insects

This month, I sat down with Eric Kortenhoeven at USGS to talk more about our participation in the Citizen Science light trapping project to collect emergent insect data. My hope is GCY guides can take this Citizen Science project deeper and engage our participants to think about the implications of the data we are all collecting.

Whether you’re a seasoned guide for GCY, or just becoming a part of the family, my hope is that this section will give all of you a greater depth of knowledge. By sparking our own curiosity, we can better involve participants, giving them real reason to care about the science we do on program. Consequently, we can help them find their own voice in the discussions about the best ways to protect our lands and rivers in the Southwest.

light-trap-2017(pic credit: USGS, Anya Metcalfe)

What is this project at its most basic level? 

The Citizen Science light trapping project is a monitoring program. It allows USGS scientists to assess ecological health and changes associated with river management by collecting data on emergent aquatic insects with relatively low costs. This project also creates a bridge between quantitative science and the general public where water management is concerned; the hope is to get the public (the consumers) to understand the fragility of the systems they rely upon so heavily.

Why does this project exist? 

USGS scientists hope to develop a baseline understanding of the aquatic macro-invertebrate taxa of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers. Said another way, scientists want to know what kind of aquatic insects exist, the seasonality of these populations, and where the majority of these insects are showing up. Until now, scientists have not had a good foundation of data to compare to. Now, with the help of Citizen Science, USGS is collecting valuable information that will give future scientists an adequate baseline of data to inform how they understand and monitor changes in different river systems.

Facts to remember about light trapping:

  • Every time GCY sets up a light trap, we are contributing to the LARGEST emergent aquatic insect dataset EVER collected. WOW!
  • As Citizen Scientists, we are collecting a reliable baseline of knowledge that will help scientist find new trends.
  • As more data is collected, and more trends identified, scientist will be able to provide valuable information to help shape policy decisions surrounding the management of our rivers.
  • The San Juan River is a great source of data to compare to other rivers in the basin. Scientists hope that using the San Juan River (another sandy bottom river) strong comparisons and contrasts can be made to the Colorado River. This could also inform future management policies.
  • Our data allows future researches to understand the ecological health of the river system and any changes that occur over time. This can then inform our understanding of what factors led to these changes: climate change, management policies, other stochastic events (i.e. flash floods, fires, mine spills…) among other things.
  • Current data highlights the unusually low diversity of invertebrates below Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado, especially when compared to otherwise similar ecosystems, like the San Juan River.
  • USGS scientists have found strong evidence that hydropeaking is impacting the diversity of river food webs.

Take your curiosity deeper:

How can we share this knowledge with youth?

This year we are working with our friends at USGS to create laminated flashcards and info sheets to accompany your light trap kit. As you help the students through setting up the light trap, don’t forget to engage them in the whys and whats of the study. Encourage the youth to ask questions, and don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer!


*This article was reviewed and fact-checked by Eric Kortenhoeven*


Jordan’s Desk

Macroinvertebrate Mayhem: a game to introduce youth to emergent insects

The overall goal of adding games like the one below to our collective repertoire is to deepen the understanding youth have of Citizen Science projects they are working on. It’s one thing to enjoy catching bugs on the river; it’s another to think about the bigger factors determining which species you’re finding.


This game is a great way to introduce participants to the major players in the world of emergent insects (like what you catch in light traps). It is an adaptation of sharks and minnows, where the ‘minnows’ are macroinvertebrates and ‘sharks’ are environmental stressors. This game illustrates the differences in stress tolerance levels between different macroinvertebrate species, and how environmental stressors can impact survival rates.

Game Instructions:

  1. Participants are given new identities via laminated name cards describing what species of macroinvertebrate they are. These could be mayfly, caddisfly, stonefly, gammarus, black fly midge, etc. Cards will also have instructions on how each species is allowed to move during the game. Stress tolerant species will be able to run regularly, while stress intolerant species will have to do a funny motion (ex. Mayflies have to wave their arms and spin in circles).
  2. Some students will be Environmental Stressor. Stressors will be factors like drought, flash floods, pollution, & higher temperatures. How do participants think each of these would affect macroinvertebrate populations?
  3. Delineate game boundaries. Macros line up on one end of the beach and try to make it across a designated line on the other side without being caught by the Stressor.
  4. Debrief with the group! What species were the easiest for the Stressor to catch? Was any species wiped out completely?
  5. Play a second round adding more Stressors to the game. What happens when a river system experiences mine pollution, agricultural runoff, AND dam effects? How many species can survive? Can any stress intolerant species survive? Repeat as many times as your group wants!

The plan for 2017 is to include the materials for this game in the Resource Room for each cycle, along with instructions and a list of discussion questions you might want to get into with the group. We also had the idea to make the macros and environmental stressors river specific, so that the characters in your game are species students will likely be catching!

(Adapted From:

Risk Management Corner

The purpose of this section is to explore near-miss/evacuation scenarios/debrief questions that have presented themselves during recent GCY seasons. We hope to share these experiences with all our guides as a training moment. These scenarios are to provide practice, not to critique any specific decision that was made.

A Seizure Scenario:

It is evening number 2 of your mid-June, 5-day Lower San Juan trip. One of the participants, a 15 year old female, is experiencing warning signs of a seizure: her arms and hands were seizing.

The roster stated that a medical follow-up was performed: she was diagnosed with seizures/epilepsy 4 years ago. Has only had 2 seizures and that her seizures involve passing out and slight convulsions. She hasn’t historically had grand mal style seizures. Her warning signs include a slight seizing in her right or left arm. If this happens, she needs to sit down and be ready to seize. These arm seizures can be brought on by stress or not taking her medication. She takes anti-seizure medication twice daily. She can self advocate.

  1. Where do you start your patient assessment survey? Why?
  2. What are the questions you ask your patient? Why?
  3. What questions do you ask the rest of the crew and Trip Coordinators?
  4. What does your patient care look like? Why?
  5. Who do you call and what do you ask for?
  6. Do you remember the seizure evacuation protocols?

Stay tuned in the next issue to what the guides did and a seizure refresher.

Previous Issue’s Follow-up: An Evacuation Scenario

The previous scenario:  You are on day 3 of an Upper San Juan trip. An 11 year old male threw-up 3 times yesterday but woke up feeling better today, however, he wasn’t eating or drinking much. He went on a hike and started to feel much worse with no desire to eat food or drink water. You will take out tomorrow at 11-ish. What do you do?

Veteran GCY guides, Tony Cola and Steph Jackson, follow-up with what they did and why:

“This scenario is a little bit different from most. There were a total of 4 teachers on the trip, 2 of which were guides. The guides had great relationship with the student and knew the student very well.

  1. Guides kept asking the student “on a scale of 1-10” what are you feeling? The response varied greatly, but when he stated it was over an 8, we worried. The guides were kept in the loop the whole time and had many discussions regarding different situations regarding evacs. At this point the student has probably eaten one meal and drank one quart of water over the whole trip that he was able to keep down. Everything else was vomited.
  2. Patient care was good. Guides kept monitoring intake and outputs. Guides also kept monitoring his mental status and head space. We knew this student very well. He was not his normal self. His interactions with peers was minimal which is not like him at all.
  3. (we got service at 4 foot and made the call there) We called the Primary on Call (Emma) and explained the situation. We asked for options: where can we evac. We thought Lime creek would be a good spot. The person on-call made the call to evac from the take-out but early.
  4. Our evac decision (which was made by all guides and teachers) was that Steph Jackson was to leave the trip with the student from the last night’s camp and would meet a driver and truck at Mexican Hat and return to Flagstaff. At lunch, the gear from Steph’s boat was dispersed among the other guides and she took the trash and empty boxes. The group pushed to camp and Steph continued past camp to Mexican Hat and the truck and driver. Steph then returned the child safely to his parents in Flagstaff.

In the end, everything worked out very well. This student is looking forward to doing the trip again this year!”

Have a suggestion about a scenario for the Risk Management Corner? Email with your suggestion!

Unique Guide Skills:

Reed Allen, horse whispering

(pic credits, Mark Allen)

On the 2016 SJU River Rampage program a feral horse made itself at home at River House Camp. Reed occupied the horse while the rest of the crew got all the gear packed and participants safely on the boats. Thanks, Reed!

Do you know a GCY guide with an unusual skill? We want to know also! Email and let her know. Pictures are handy too!

Reading Suggestion from Emma

Want a little pre-season review on connecting with troubled and/or difficult youth? Follow this link to “Reclaiming Disconnected Kids,” a short but super informative article about how to connect with hurt and troubled youth. This article is part of a blog on the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Connections website and provides some straight forward suggestions on how to reach out and possibly connect with angry and troubled students you might find on program.

Looking Downstream: upcoming dates to remember

Saturday, 4 February: 10 am – 4 pm: Grand Canyon Youth Season Opener at the GCY warehouse. Pre-season orientation, pizza for lunch, and some background info on Group Dynamics.

Friday, 17 February – Saturday 18 February: Grand Canyon Field Institute Guide Training Seminar at the South Rim. Please click here to let me know that you are interested (even if you already have, please do it again). I will follow up with more information with those who are interested.

Saturday, 18 February: 6 pm – 9 pm: Whale Foundation annual Wing Ding at the Coconino Center for the Arts featuring artist Amy Martin with Cree Watahomigie and musician Benjie Howard. More info can be found here.

Friday, 24 March – Sunday, 26 March: Grand Canyon Youth training trip weekend on the Verde. Depart GCY at noon on Friday and return by Sunday evening. We will spend Saturday doing a float on the Clarkdale section of the Verde River with the Verde Valley Institute, spend two nights in Clarkdale at the Verde Valley Institute. We will be focusing on Group Dynamics: games, openers, closers, scenarios, etc.

Saturday, 1 April – Sunday 2 April: Grand Canyon River Guides Association, Guides Training Seminar at Hatch River Expeditions in Marble Canyon, AZ. This year’s theme is, “Professional River Guiding as a Lifelong Career: Taking Care of Ourselves, Each Other, and the Place We Love over the Long Haul.” Click here for more info including cost and registration information.

Have something you want included in the next issue of The Gauge? Email with what it is.