Plan Now To Attend Outdoor Education Conferences

Office Admin

February 21, 2014

Volunteers who produced AEE's 38th Annual International Conference (credit: AEE).

Volunteers who produced AEE’s 38th Annual International Conference (credit: AEE).

If you’re at all interested in a career in outdoor or adventure education and just don’t know where to start, we’re here to tell you that there are whole slew of outdoor education conferences that you can attend – and other things you can do right now – to improve your chance of being hired by a quality organization like The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE). For instance, you could:

  • Become certified in wilderness medicine: There are lots of organizations that provide wilderness medicine training, including NCOAE. At a bare minimum, you should have your Wilderness First Responder certification if you’re serious about working in the outdoor education field.
  • Learn about the theory of experiential education: We recommend reading Theory and Practice of Experiential Education. Published by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), this book – which is now in its 4th edition – contains everything you need to know about both the theory behind – and practice of – experiential education.
  • Join an industry membership association: All of the really great outdoor education practitioners belong to at least one industry membership or trade association. For a list of associations to consider joining, visit the NCOAE Resources page online
  • Attend an outdoor industry conference or trade show: Once you know for sure that working in outdoor and experiential education is what you want to be doing, you should plan on attending at least one outdoor industry-related conference or trade show.

And speaking of outdoor industry conferences and trade shows, here’s a short rundown of the ones we feel you should know about:

  • ACA National Conference: This annual conference is hosted by the American Camp Association and is always a blast. In addition to an exhibit hall stocked with great vendors, this conference offers world-class educationally focused workshops along with trending speakers and wonderful networking opportunities for anyone considering a career in camping or outdoor education.
  • AEE International Conference: The Association for Experiential Education hosts this annual conference for outdoor and experiential educators. Here, you’ll be able to network with other outdoor educators, lean new tricks of the trade, and sit in on workshops offering practical tips that you can put to good use as soon as you return home and shake off an amazing conference buzz.
  • AMGA Annual Meeting: The American Mountain Guides Association hosts this annual meeting, which is idea for anyone interested in guiding hardcore mountaineering or rock climbing expeditions.
  • AORE Annual Conference: If you’re an aspiring outdoor educator with an interest in working in a college, university, military base, or community recreation center setting, then this conference – produced by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education – is for you. A lot of mentoring goes on at this event, which is why we feel it’s a great one for the newbie to attend.
  • International ACCT Conference & Exposition: ACCT stands for Association for Challenge Course Technology, a trade group that represents the ropes/challenge course industry. If facilitating challenge course activities with mainstream, corporate or even therapeutic populations are where you see yourself, then this is the conference for you to attend.
  • Outdoor Retailer: More trade show than conference, Outdoor Retailer is the biannual gathering for outdoor retailers and the manufacturers whose products and wares they sell. Always held in January and August of each year in Salt Lake City, Utah, Outdoor Retailer is the ultimate playground for anyone seriously interested in technical gear, apparel and accessories.
  • Wilderness Risk Management Conference: Risk is inherent in a lot of what we do as outdoor and experiential educators. Mitigating those risks is easier once you know where to look for potential danger and hazards. The Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) tunes you in to the latest trends and issues in backcountry risk management.

So there you have it. This very short list of outdoor education conferences and trade shows is nowhere near being inclusive of every single opportunity for you to pursue. But what is here is just enough to help the novice or wannabe outdoor educator learn more and network with real pros from the field.

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