Hamilton Students and Staff Present at Annual AEE Conference

Hamilton students and staff at the Association for Experiential Education conference.
Hamilton students and staff at the Association for Experiential Education conference.

More than 20 Hamilton students and staff members attended the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) annual Northeast Regional Conference in Becket, Mass., from April 5-7. Hamilton students attended a wide variety of workshops covering all aspects of experiential and wilderness education. The Hamilton Outdoor Leadership Center has been sending students to the conference for many years.

This year in addition to Hamilton’s strong participant turnout three of the conference’s workshops were presented by Hamilton students, alumni, and staff. On Friday Hamilton students Jane Barnard ’13, Anna Bastidas ’13, and Deanna Nappi ’15 with the assistance of Outdoor Leadership Center Director Andrew Jillings gave a presentation titled “The Right Stuff: Selecting Leaders for Adirondack Adventure.” They presented to more than 30 conference attendees about what factors they look for when choosing leaders for the college’s Adirondack Adventure wilderness pre-orientation program.

On Saturday morning assistant director of the Outdoor Leadership Center Sarah Jillings presented a workshop titled “Leaning into discomfort of living: Criteria for living a meaningful life.” She espoused the benefits of always pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and spoke about how educators can encourage their students to do the same. Meg Bolger ’11 also presented a workshop on Saturday titled “Creating inclusive practices & environments: LGBTQ, gender sensitivity, and more.” Her workshop was an extension of her LGBTQ education work through her organization Pride for All.

On Friday before the conference officially started six Hamilton students attended the Outdoor Orientation Program Symposium (OOPS). OOPS is smaller conference focusing specifically on college wilderness orientation programs like Hamilton’s Adirondack Adventure. In addition to presenting, the students attended workshops focusing on the differences in various programs and the benefits that the orientation trip leaders themselves gain.

Experiential education is an educational theory based on the idea that people learn best when they are actively involved in their learning. It focuses on developing student’s communication, leadership, and social skills. The AEE regional conference is a yearly event that brings educators and leaders from across the northeast to one place to share their experiences and learn new techniques. This year’s conference was themed “Connect thru Experience” and emphasized how our programs can connect people and enhance their learning.

Andrew Jillings left the conference stating that he felt that in addition to Hamilton’s strongest showing this year was also one of the conference’s best years. The Outdoor Leadership Center expects to send a group of students and staff to the October AEE international conference in Denver, Colo.

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