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Between September and November 2003, the Guide’s School of Patagonia (GSP) recruited local farmers, fisherman, craftsman, and residents of the region to participate in a two-year training program in nature-based tourism guiding and career development. In total, sixty applications were received. All sixty of the individuals who applied were interviewed for placements in the school, over a three day period. They were evaluated based on the quality of their applications, face-to-face interviews, and prior experience. Thirty-eight of these applicants were invited to participate. They represented a wide range of communities, backgrounds, levels of education, and socio-economic conditions. Orientation took place in Murta, a tiny village of the region, during December 11-13, 2003. Coursework took place in Puerto Ibanez, beginning in March of 2004. Course modules included short periods of group instruction, where students came together in Puerto Ibanez, and homework assignments, which students completed individually, or in small groups, during interim times in their home communities. This allowed students to maintain their regular livelihood pursuits and family connections during their experience at the school.
During the following two years, twenty-two course modules were offered, addressing a variety of topics, including minimal impact wilderness practices, backcountry camping and hiking techniques, wilderness first aid, safety and risk management, leadership and teamwork, communication skills, tourist psychology, legal and regulatory aspects of nature-based tourism, management of wild protected areas, history and local culture, use of maps and orientation, biodiversity and nature conservation, geomorphology of the landscape, environmental interpretation, general project administration, tourism-related business organization and administration, and business planning. Also, several areas of technical specialty were offered: trekking, climbing, whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, mountaineering, skiing, kayaking, horse trekking, and rational, or gentle, methods of horse-training. Students were required to complete two “capstone” experiences at the culmination of the program. First, they were asked to take part in a professional internship with a company or organization in the region. Secondly, they were asked to develop a final project, in which they prepared a business or project plan for a nature-based tourism enterprise. For these projects, students had the option of working individually, or in small groups.
In July of 2005, a total of twenty-three residents of the Aysén region successfully completed the Guide’s School of Patagonia program. Fourteen persons graduated as Regional Guides of the Guide’s School of Patagonia.