AEE’s Podcast Highlights NCOAE’s Zac and Celine Adair

Office Admin

July 08, 2024

Like many podcasts that host informal chats with founders of businesses, organizations, and charities, Zac and Celine Adair recently offered listeners a glimpse into the heart and soul of their “baby,” The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE).

Zac and Celine, NCOAE’s co-founders, are showcased in Episode 15 of “It’s In the Experience,” presented by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and hosted by Sherry Bagley, AEE’s executive director. To listen to the 45-minute episode, which is titled Overcoming Challenges: Creating Positive Experiences in Experiential Education, subscribe to “It’s In the Experience” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast App, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Or, you can listen to Overcoming Challenges: Creating Positive Experiences in Experiential Education by clicking on the audio file below:

Episode Highlights

Here’s a high-level overview of what’s featured in the episode, which was published by AEE in mid-June of this year:

Meet Celine: Co-founded in 2009 by Zac and Celine Adair, NCOAE is dedicated to fostering personal growth and professional development through adventure-based education and emergency medicine trainings. Celine, who is also our organization’s director of operations, brings a wealth of experience in outdoor education and therapeutic practices to the organization. Her passion for systems thinking and experiential education has driven her to create impactful programs — including Education Without Walls, a non-profit branch of NCOAE aimed at supporting disadvantaged teens.

Meet Zac: Zac, is NCOAE’s executive director, bringing more than three decades of outdoor industry experience to the table. His expertise in risk management and emergency medicine, coupled with his academic background in adventure education, underscores his commitment to providing transformative experiences. Throughout the podcast, Celine and Zac share their journey from passionate outdoor enthusiasts to founders of a pioneering educational organization. 

How They Met: The enterprising pair recall their “online romance” before they ever met face to face. Celine said she was working as a guide in Hawaii, thinking of ways to put an outdoor education program together. Zac, an avid surf fan, was doing the same thing while enrolled at Celine’s alma mater, Prescott College. He was trying to think through how to use surfing as an education activity — one that would expose youth to the pressing need for environmental awareness and stewardship, as well as gain an interest in ocean sciences.

So while they met online, it wasn’t really about romance at first. Zac messaged Celine and they talked for hours about adventure programming, outdoor education, and surfing and tying to tie it all together. Celine said she was impressed that Zac was “doing research on using surfing as more than just shredding the gnar.”

Forming NCOAE: A year or so later, they agreed to meet up. After getting to know one another in person, they eventually purchased a Volkswagen van, and traveled around the country for a few months. They ended up sitting on a beach in North Carolina, and “may have shared a bottle of wine,” before deciding to stay. Zac said that by then, the pair already had a concept for NCOAE, its curriculum and programs, and a mutual vision for using outdoor adventures as a medium for personal growth and the acquisition or improvement of one’s technical outdoor and wilderness-based medical skills. 

Today – Managing NCOAE: Running an organization like NCOAE comes with its own set of challenges. Zac highlighted the difficulties in staffing and ensuring the competence of instructors in an era where experiential learning is often misunderstood or undervalued. Celine emphasized the importance of emotional regulation and resilience among young instructors, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And despite these challenges, NCOAE continues to thrive by adapting and innovating. From developing new training modules to building stronger community ties, the Celine and Zac remain fully committed to a mission of designing and delivering handcrafted outdoor and adventure education experiences that promote personal growth, professional development, and stewardship in our communities and the natural environment.

What’s Next: As for the future, Zac shared that NCOAE is working towards achieving an accreditation status that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education — a step that Zac and Celine say will not only enhance the credibility of our programs, but also expand our reach and impact. Additionally, the pair are excited about their latest infrastructure project on NCOAE’s sprawling Wilmington, N.C. campus — an open-air space next to the gear ‘cave’ for additional gear maintenance, cleaning, and outdoor activities.

As you’ll hear, this episode of “It’s In the Experience” offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education, showcasing the passion and dedication of its founders. 

To learn more, click on the file above to play the episode, or check out the episode on AEE’s website clicking Overcoming Challenges: Creating Positive Experiences in Experiential Education.

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