2017 AEE Northeast Regional Conference

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.

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Nicky & friends in 2005 in Tucson, AZ a day after the AEE conference. She was a Junior in College.

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.

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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.

 

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SUCCESSFUL Friend-Raiser!

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Our youngest friends checking out the tent

Mother nature pulled it together just in time for us this past Sunday, melting the snow and waking up the sun to provide a brilliant spring day for our event.  We estimate that 40-50 people joined us at Holcomb Farm in Granby, CT to share beautiful food, community, and laughter. A presentation, about Outside Perspectives and how community members can support us, rounded out the day.

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A beautiful day in the sun!

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Guests spent time during the event meeting other community members, playing games, and checking out our newly donated backpacking equipment, including our youngest friends who took a particular liking to the fort-like tent. As the picture (above left) shows, it didn’t take long after their arrival for our kid-guests to flee their boots unleashing their caged winter feet. It was such a pleasure to see them running around the field enjoying being outside and in each other’s company.

17426082_1388292857881235_4698261183949390142_nNo spring gathering is complete without some delicious food to share. We are grateful to some incredibly generous (and DELICIOUS) donations we received for the event including a split pea soup from Heirloom Kitchen, sourdough pizza crusts from Hungry Ghost, and a freshly harvested spinach salad from Holcomb Farm.  There were plenty of willing hands that contributed to making and baking (AND EATING) homemade pizzas in the outdoor brick oven as well. With full bellies, we took the party inside to learn more about Outside Perspectives and how interested folks can support our mission.  

The event was a great success as we were able to gain a new board member, were offered t-shirt donations for two expeditions this summer and learned many great ideas for moving forward with new partnerships.  We will be contacting people soon to set up meetings as we plan our next actions steps.

We want to extend a BIG THANK YOU to those who participated in our event. It was a great reminder of the power of community and that we have a GREAT one behind us! Thank you for your generous donations as well. We had enough cover the cost of the event and were able to put a little away! If you were unable to attend and have ideas or questions for us, please feel free to reach out!

Until next time….HAPPY SPRING!