There are lots of things that separate the work we do here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) from others who offer outdoor education, wilderness trips and wilderness medical training for youths and adults. For starters, unlike other many other outdoor adventure education providers, we operate using a core curriculum that researchers have proven has a positive impact on participants’ self-confidence, interpersonal relationships, and civic and environmental responsibility. In addition, both the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services and the State of North Carolina have approved us to offer an intensive 19-day EMT-Basic training curriculum.
But for those of us who work at NCOAE, that’s not enough. Like you, we demand a lot of ourselves, and as an emerging leader in our field, we want to be held accountable to standards far greater than those which we have set for ourselves. That’s why we’ve actively chosen to pursue accreditation from the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), the leading authority on standards for outdoor and adventure-based education programs in the United States and beyond.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, AEE’s Accreditation Program was conceived in the late 1980’s after a rapid increase in the number of adventure-based outdoor education programs starting popping up in the U.S. Quickly, AEE’s members and leaders alike saw the need for standards of program quality, professional behavior, and appropriate risk management.
In the mid-1990s, AEE developed the most comprehensive standards for common practices in the adventure education industry, becoming the nation’s first recognized accreditation body focused on outdoor and adventure-based education programming.
Since then, the AEE Accreditation Program’s standards-based evaluation process — which is led by AEE staff and a group of objective, independent reviewers with deep outdoor program management experience — has become the industry-accepted level of professional evaluation for programs like ours. And like any other leading organization in the field, we support these standards and are now going through the process of brining our operations into compliance with them.
The road to AEE Accreditation ensures only the best outdoor and adventure-based programs are included. Here’s an overview of the AEE Accreditation process:
- Request information from AEE’s Accreditation Department
- Submit a preliminary application
- AEE determines your eligibility
- If eligible, AEE designates an AEE Accreditation Council Liaison
- Invite extended to participate in an option Accreditation Workshop
- Write and submit an official Self-assessment Study
- AEE’s Accreditation Department and Council Liaison review your Self-assessment Study
- AEE and your Council Liaison approves and schedules a site visit
- AEE forms a review team for the site visit
- Review team prepares for and carries out the site visit
- AEE sends the organization an official Site Visit Report
- The organization writes a Site Visit Response, which AEE reviews
- Council Liaison assigned to the organization writes and submits to the full AEE Accreditation Council its Liaison Report
- AEE Accreditation Council reviews all reports and acts on granting or denying AEE Accreditation to the organization
Once an organization is accredited by AEE, it is responsible for creating and submitting numerous reports itself detailing further and ongoing compliance and adherences to AEE standards, which we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge as being the only published standards in the field of adventure/experiential education and have been in development for over 20 years!
Here at NCOAE, we anticipate that the Association for Experiential Education will grant our Accreditation by December of this year. In the meantime, you can rest assured knowing that NCOAE’s programming and operations already meet or exceed most industry standards.