Sterling College Outdoor Education students and faculty spent the weekend at the Northeast Regional Association for Experiential Education conference in Becket, MA. In an atmosphere of playfulness and engagement, we got to attend workshops on a wide range of topics, hear the stories of elders, practitioners, teachers, and other students in the field, and stay up late around the campfire talking with friends, new and old.
For me there were three highlights of the conference. One was my workshop on Outdoor Education and Climate Justice. There were three generations of outdoor educators who attended my workshop, and the discussions were rich, heartfelt, and insightful.
My second highlight has to do with a tradition of the Northeast Region of AEE. Each year, an elder in our practitioner community is selected to receive the Josh Miner Award; this award goes to an elder who has been a mentor, role model, leader, and inspiration to many of us. The recipient of the award is interviewed onstage on the Saturday night of the conference. This year’s recipient was Sterling College past President Jed Williamson, and I got to interview him. For nearly two hours, Jed shared snapshots of history, education do’s and don’ts, and a spectacular array of adventures and misadventures, often to uproarious laughter, but also including some deeply poignant moments. He got an instantaneous standing ovation at the end of the evening.
My third highlight was meeting and talking to the wide array of people at the conference, and hearing some of their stories. This field has practitioners who do so many fascinating things; leading wilderness trips of all kinds, running College wilderness orientation programs, marriage and family counsellors, educators who bring compassion and conflict management skills to public school discipline, folks who do anti-bullying work, counseling, and interventions of all kinds through challenge course activities, students with all kinds of great ideas and projects, teachers of all generations, and so much more. What an enriching three days!