This past weekend I attended the 2011 Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Northeast Regional Conference. The conference was held at The Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA. This years conference was described with, “It all starts with a spark. It fuels us when we come together. It moves us to do things we thought impossible. It exists in our camps, communities, classrooms, therapeutic agencies and in our heads, bodies, hearts, and souls. It exists when people engage in Experiential Education.

What inspires your fire? This conference will inspire you to find a way to incorporate Experiential Education into the work you do. Come to listen, engage in conversation, share your inspiration, learn and play.”

I can’t think of a more perfect setting to continue to engage in experiential learning. And how well the conference theme fits in with the work we do here on Human Potential. So it was with great pleasure and excitement that I attended this years conference. I really felt that the Keynote Speech by Preston Cline was one of the more exceptional talks I’ve ever heard. Preston told us the tale of how he got involved with Experiential Education and his work in Risk Management. He told us what he is doing now in the field and what he hopes to do in the future. Much of what Preston shared at the conference, both in the Kepynote presentation and during the following mornings dialogue with Keith King, really resonated with me and my own personal trains of thought.
Beyond what Preston offered up at the conference, I felt this years conference wasn’t as stellar as last years but it was still worth the money to attend. Saturday morning I gave a presentation on Ethics in Outdoor Education and asked my peers if they were acting properly. Together, during my one and a half hour workshop, we were able to work through some of scenarios and using Kitcheners Model of Ethical decision making as well as the three Ethical Principles to decide how we might make the better, ethical, decision with our participants. I then went on to learn how to do Primitive Fire Building where I started a fired using a fire bow. Yeah.. this is the rubbing of two sticks together. I did it and it felt great. Sunday morning I attended a workshop on how to lighten your load during 8 day, field expeditions and then made an alcohol camp stove out of a Fancy Feast kitty food can.
I did a bit of introspection at the conference and tried to think more about what I want to do moving forward with Experiential Education after I graduate in a few short weeks. I know for certain I’m not likely to present on Ethics again, though I’ll try to investigate my roots a bit further. Motivation is a tough subject in our field and I’d like to continue to work on how we can be Responsible TO participants rather than FOR when we think about motivation. I’d also like to create some workshops on backcountry cooking. And once I move to Boulder.. I hope to hook up with the AEE’s main office to volunteer some of my time to a great organization.
There is a lot of good that happens at the AEE conferences and I really hope more people in our society can open their eyes to the benefits of experiential learning. It’s a movement that is still catching on and the narrow-minded traditions of traditional education still have the curtain down on what is out there to be had.