Students at the AEE Conference in Montreal with Andrew Jillings.

Through the support of the Outdoor Leadership Center, six students along with Andrew Jillings, director of the Outdoor Leadership Center, attended the Association for Experiential Education (AEE)’s Annual International Conference held in Montreal on Nov. 8-11.

Student attendees Mackenzie Bettman-Adcock ’18, Leigh Preston ’18, Megan Bates ’18, Maggie Horne ’19, Garth Robinson ’19, and Rachel Zuckerman ’19 heard from five keynote speakers, attended a range of hands-on workshops, and networked with practitioners from all corners of the world.

At the workshops, students had the opportunity to work with these professionals as they discussed diversity and inclusion, created new games, and developed their facilitation techniques.

Some workshops students attended were “Creating Trans(gender) Inclusive Environments in the Outdoors, the Workplace, and Beyond”, led by Hamilton alumna Meg Bolger ’11 and Perry Cohen; “The Human-Nature Connection, Healing Ourselves by Appreciating Nature”; and “Sound Off!: Engaging Participants through Music, Rhythm, and Tone.”

I personally enjoyed “Gamesmithing: Don’t Panic! It’s Organic! As an orientation and AXB trip leader, I tend to overanalyze the interactions among my participants and assume that they are not having fun if they’re not engrossed in conversation from day one, but this workshop showed me that everyone “plays” at their own speed, and sometimes, the best games are ones that the participants co-create.

Beyond the impact this conference had on students immediately, this weekend was a chance for the Hamilton attendees to expand their academic thinking and explore potential career paths. “I went to AEE skeptical that it would match my career interests,” Preston said, “but after interacting with the warm crowd of outdoor enthusiasts and educators in my first workshop, I felt at home. Not only did I find out about great job opportunities, but I was so excited about the connection, or apparent lack thereof, between outdoor education and environmental education and advocacy that I decided to focus my thesis project on it!”

Without the Outdoor Leadership Center, these transforming moments would not be possible for students. Andrew Jillings observed, “There’s nothing more experiential than attending an experiential learning conference. Watching students get involved in the activities of such a wide variety of workshops makes me realize that this is the best sort of learning we can provide.”

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