A blog post from Outside Perspectives Executive Director, Nicky Wood:
On April 22nd I went to the Northeast Regional Conference for the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) in Becket, Massachusetts and thought I would share some of my experience. AEE is a nonprofit, international, professional organization whose mission is to develop and promote experiential education. Its membership consists of individuals and organizations with affiliations in education, recreation, outdoor and adventure programming, the environment, mental health, youth development, programming of people with disabilities, service learning, and organizational development. The intent of AEE is to contribute to making a more just and compassionate world by transforming education. Needless to say, if Outside Perspectives were going to be connected to a professional organization, AEE would be a perfect fit.
I have been aware of AEE since I started in the field of outdoor education when I was in undergrad. I attended my first international AEE conference in 2005 as a volunteer. It was in Tucson Arizona and I remember sleeping in a greyhound bus station on my way down, volunteering to gain access to the conference and bumming a space on the floor of an apartment of friends when I got there to save money. I was interested to see if I could make a connection to find a summer job and was also hoping to soak in as much as I could about being an outdoor professional from the experience. I remember coming back from the conference feeling excited and inspired about the road ahead because it helped to show me that what I was truly passionate about had a professional context and some very inspiring individuals I was hoping to follow. I knew I would be back in years to come.
Since that time I have attended a number of international conferences in places like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Portland, Oregon as an individual. But I had never found my way to a regional conference and never had the opportunity to represent Outside Perspectives until last weekend. A smaller and more intimate experience, I realized this conference would be the perfect place to find local contacts that could provide me with support and guidance for what I was trying to accomplish with Outside Perspectives.
I was only able to attend thanks to a generous scholarship from AEE, which I was awarded after applying via email a few months back. They asked that to apply one should draft an email stating why they desired to go and what their need was. It was a perfect opportunity to meet the folks who would immediately understand what we were trying to do and maybe even give me some advise or ideas. I was humbled, honored and excited to be chosen to receive the scholarship to attend.
While I was at the conference I attended many workshops, met new and interesting people, made many valuable connections and found myself feeling rejuvenated and inspired by the many amazing people who had successfully done what I was trying to do by starting Outside Perspectives. If there is anything that an AEE conference is known for it is making people feel welcome and included. There is a definite feeling that one has found one’s tribe as you can find commonalities with almost everyone you meet. One organization I connected with was The Connecticut Experiential Education Association, which I am hopeful could be a way for Outside Perspectives to become more involved in the outdoor education profession in Connecticut.
I attended workshops about adventure based programming as well as facilitation and processing. The two that took place Saturday morning gave me new games and activities to use on our courses this year and even helped me develop new ways to facilitate games and activities I am already familiar with. In the afternoon, I went to workshops that were more reflective in nature, one about looking at who you are as a leader and another a discussion about the professional issues that women in an adventure programming may face and how to address them. As a woman leading an organization I found both workshops engaging and their facilitators inspiring.
I had time during meals and in between workshops to connect with like-minded individuals and share my story more then a few times. I learned quite a lot about other programs and where people stood on their journey in the outdoor education world. The day ended with an on-stage inspirational interview with Laurie Gullion as part of the ongoing Josh Miner Dialogue Series. The series consists of a public undefined dialogue or conversation between the years’ honoree and another professional in the field. Laurie is a woman who’s love and passion for wild places combined with her resilience and tenacity has lead her to amazing places. Her life stories were exciting and motivating.
I have a feeling my journey with AEE, especially in the Northeast, has just begun. I hope to remain connected with the individuals I met while at the conference and continue to find opportunities to meet more folks in this amazing field of work that has always felt like home to me.