WIN a two night stay at the Grand Hyatt Denver!


This year weare offering a chance to win a two-night stay during the conference at the our host hotel, the Grand Hyatt in Denver. 

Conveniently located in the heart of exciting downtown Denver, this is definitely the year to book with the group!

How to win: Those who are registered for the conference and have reserved their rooms at the Hyatt by the Early Bird deadline July 31st will be automatically entered for a chance to have two of their nights FREE!

Register for the International Conference

Book your hotel room

Find out more about the Grand Hyatt Denver

In Memoriam: Jon Gregg “Zeke” Zeliff

zeke1Jon Gregg “Zeke” Zeliff died peacefully at his home near Portland, Oregon, March 28, 2013 after a long battle with cancer.

Zeke was a long-time AEE member and treasured contributor to the growth and development of the association.  He served multiple terms on the board over a 25 year period, including the roles of secretary, treasurer, and president.

In 1989, after convening several AEE conferences, Zeke created the pivotal CAC (Conference Advisory Committee) which he successfully chaired through 1997.  The CAC remains a valuable tool for continuing support of AEE events today. Zeke was awarded the Servant Leader Award in 2000.  Through AEE, Zeke met his wife, Wendy Webb and remarried in 1999.

Zeke grew up in Winston-Salem, NC where his parents took their children on camping trips up and down the east coast. From these adventures Zeke’s love of the outdoors was kindled. This passion expanded dramatically through the Boy Scouts, where eventually he became an Eagle Scout and later received the Order of Arrow and God and Country Award.

zeke4 4With his lifelong friend, Mike Fischesser, Zeke helped build a wilderness camp outside the Boy Scout retreat near Mount Airy.  Years later, Mike convinced Zeke to come to Linville Gorge and work logistics for the North Carolina Outward Bound School. This led to a long career, where he held many key leadership positions, including acting director of both the North Carolina and Pacific Crest Outward Bound Schools.

Zeke left Outward Bound in 1996 to join long-time friend Bill Proudman as a principal at Inclusivity Consulting Group, a leadership and organizational development consulting firm based in Portland.

In 2003, Zeke left Inclusivity to found his own leadership development and training company called Outside Perspective. Zeke and wife Wendy were fortunate to work through their business for international companies throughout the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia.

zeke3Zeke touched many lives through a variety of interests and pursuits. For this writer, he was my introduction to serving on the Board of this association and my mentor in the work of the CAC. He was known for his business savvy, his affection for and generosity with people and, of course, his great love of the outdoors.

His love of life was contagious, and his sincere care for those in his presence was palpable. He was direct, yet kind, brilliant, yet humble, and saw the value in all whom he met.

He is survived by his wife, Wendy Webb, daughters Morgan and Molly, his step-son, Derek Arent and Derek’s wife Kayla Sakraida, Also, by his mother and sisters, Joyce Zeliff and Kathryn Trotter, of Charlotte, NC and his brother, Michael, of College Park, MD and three nephews.

Friends and family have established the Zeke Zeliff Endowment for Leadership through Service to establish annual scholarships for deserving students of both the North Carolina and Northwest Outward Bound Schools. To receive information about how to donate to this fund, email


Backpacking our way to peace: Applying experiential learning to peacebuilding

by Nettie Pardue (AEE Member)

As eagerly as children, we snatched the lumps of the brown sugar and put them in our mouths letting them dissolve into honeyed puddles on our tongues.  We had processed the cane with our hands using a trapiche (hand powered grinder, pictured below), boiled the juice on an open fire, and then poured the liquid into molds to harden. A wise elder, Mr. Lopez instructed us in our techniques. He lived on and owned the rustic farm, a full day’s walk from the nearest road, where our group was enjoying a homestay.  In three hours, we transformed huge stands of sugar cane into the purest sugar we had ever tasted. Together we had found a very sweet spot! 

Eleven strangers from six different countries came together in Costa Rica for the first Practicum on Experiential Peacebuilding (PEP), a pilot program of the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding (OBCP).  The three male and eight female particiImagepants, aged 23-45 represented five different countries:  Colombia, Israel, Slovakia, the United States and Australia. Along the 9-day journey, participants learned and practiced leadership skills, challenged their own perspectives, explored relevant peacebuilding topics, and developed meaningful relationships with participants who share similar commitments to peace and human dignity. We also learned how to make raw sugar on a homestay experience.

ImageThe expedition was a great and unique human lab providing raw insight into the different motivations and drivers behind the decisions peacebuilders and other personalities make. I feel the precious and raw insights gained on the expedition are already proving invaluable in my further understanding of, compassion and grace for others and where they are in their own journey,” said Giselle Wansa a 2012 PEP participant.

But why experiential learning and peacebuilding?

OBCP fills a unique niche bridging the experiential learning and peacebuilding field with what Todd Walters (2009), calls “experiential peacebuilding.”  The United States Institute for Peace 2010 report, “Graduate Education and Professional Practice in International Peace and Conflict,” finds that U.S. graduate institutions are inadequately preparing students for careers in international peace and conflict particularly in the area of “field experience” and “applied conflict analysis and resolution skills.”  PEP offers an experience-based program focused on applied leadership and conflict resolution skills and taught in a challenging multi-cultural environment through an expeditionary learning outdoor approach. Another 2012 participant testified to the value of the program for her: “I feel more confident as a student and professional in my field; the program achieved its objectives of cultivating compassionate leadership and creating an active network of peacebuilders.” 

 The program aims to achieve four goals related to peacebuilding work:

  • To cultivate compassionate peacebuilding leaders.
  • To explore and learn the methodology and philosophy of experiential


  • To learn and apply conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills in an

experiential, cross-cultural context.

  • To bring together active networks of peacebuilders.

After a successful pilot program in June 2012, Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding will offer its second PEP program on June 14-23, 2013 in partnership with OB Costa Rica. We are looking for candidates to be a part of our next PEP.  If you’re interested in getting out of the classroom and learning peacebuilding and leadership skills hands-on, please see our website for more info and to apply. We are excited to continue to expand, grow and share our learning about this program and to continue to search for the sweet spot between experiential learning and peacebuilding. 

For more information on the program or to apply:

Nettie Pardue is the Director of Programs for Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding and has been committed to the field of experiential education for over 20 years.  She can be reached at

The Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding (OBCP) challenges and inspires leaders in divided societies to build peace. OBCP is an independent member of the international Outward Bound community. Founded over 60 years ago by educator Kurt Hahn to provide active learning expeditions that inspire character development and leadership, the Outward Bound community now consists of more than 40 centers operating in over 35 countries and works with an estimated 200,000 students annually. Please see our website ( for more information.

Member Post: Mike Bingley

Mike Bingley has been an AEE member since 2009. He is the Outdoor Program Manager, Scouts Canada – Chinook Council,

Twitter:  @mbingley 

It will likely not come as a surprise to many of you reading this, but people are not as connected to the natural world as they once were.  Those of us working in the field have known this for some time, attendance at our programs is shrinking, national park attendance is dropping and the average age of people taking part in outdoor activities is growing.  This has had an impact on the Canadian Government’s National Conservation plan and, in response, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development is creating a report on Urban Conservation in Canada.  I was lucky enough to be honoured to speak to that committee on behalf of Scouts Canada last month.  Here are my remarks (the full transcript, including questions from Members of Parliament, is available at:

 Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of this committee, for having me back to speak about this important issue.

When I was last here, I was telling you that on this, the 50th anniversary of the printing of Silent Spring, we’re now facing a new silence in the wilderness. The peregrine falcon is no longer on the endangered species list, but we are close to losing the sound of children’s laughter from our forests.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that people who spend time in nature are a species at risk and, like the peregrine falcon in the 1960s, it’s the youth numbers that are plummeting. Having a strong connection to an outdoor place is the first step to ensuring any kind of conservation ethic, and it is an essential component of our Canadian identity. We must act decisively to reverse this trend or we will soon find ourselves in the position where it is too late.

In order for us to reverse this trend, we first must understand why it is happening. Research has shown that a combination of fear, a lack of education, and overzealous conservation practices have been the major contributing factors.

Government has a role in reversing these trends. It can implement tax credits to encourage families to take part in programs that bring young people in touch with nature. It can enact a liability shield for adults or groups taking young people on activities in nature. It can partner with organizations like Scouts Canada in delivering quality outdoor experiences in nature for Canadians. It can make it easier for youth groups to take advantage of parks and protected areas.

Across Canada, young people will experience the wonder of the outdoors on their own terms on a Scouts Canada activity. Earlier in this study you heard Mr. Bienenstock speaking of roam rates declining: children are not able to explore the world to the extent they once were; one of the things that we try to do in our programs is create an environment where young people feel confident enough to work together in groups to roam and explore nature without the direct supervision of adults. They work on projects and they camp in tents away from their adult supervisors.

I’ve seen the impact that these programs have on kids: bullying decreases, attention spans are lengthened, and interest in the world around them—and not just the natural world—is increased. You’ve heard about these benefits from other witnesses, so I won’t belabour the point, but nature makes a difference in the lives of young people.

Every summer I’ll get at least one phone call from a parent who is concerned that their child will be abducted by a stranger or eaten by a wild animal at camp. I have to explain that the natural world is a very, very safe place.

I have searched deeply, and I have found only two cases of child abductions from a summer camp in the last 50 years. The chance of a child being harmed by a stranger at camp is incredibly low. These are supervised environments with policies in place that make sure the kids go home with the right people. Natural environments in Canada have one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Also, negative concerns about wild animals are not significant either. There are less than two fatal bear attacks every year in North America. There have been only 38, total, in Canadian history, but parents ask me about them constantly.

Now, at the risk of overstating the obvious here, a parent who is concerned about her daughter being abducted from a Scout camp isn’t going to let her child roam the local ravines in the city with her friends. I understand that. I am a parent myself. I know that I should let my son roam to develop resilience and a strong conservation ethic, but I get nervous when he’s playing in the backyard, much less in the local park, and I do this for a living, so while these fears are misplaced, we have to recognize that they exist and that we reinforce them in this age of 24-hour news cycles and with the Internet telling us about every time a child anywhere in the world has gone missing or is hurt. Those of us in public roles must be careful to talk about the world as a safe place if we’re going to reconnect people with nature. We have to come from a position of hope.

There’s also a fear of liability. This has left many organizations helpless in regard to taking more kids outdoors.

In the United States, there is a grassroots movement that’s engaging more than a million children each year in nature play in what are called family nature clubs. This program began less than five years ago when one family asked another if they could take their kids to the local park. You have to understand that this required a tremendous leap of faith that they weren’t going to be sued if something went wrong.

We need to make it easier for people to act within the scope of their abilities and not be sued for their actions, in the same way that “good Samaritan” laws protect first-aiders. It should be noted that this kind of law would not remove the need for high-quality risk management protocols, but it would remove the risk to personal property because of a need to defend against a frivolous lawsuit.

I would next like to speak about education. We’ve moved from a place-based model to a classroom-based model in Canada. While curricula guide teachers to teach about Canadian geography and animals, they do not guide how to teach those topics. Great teachers will use experiential methods to allow students to learn about the world, but many will simply tell their students about what they could see outdoors, without helping them experience it, and if students don’t experience their local environment, they’ll not internalize it.

There is a growing body of evidence that supports the value of learning in a natural context. For example, youth who engage in multi-day nature immersion programs graduate from high school at a higher frequency than those who don’t.

I’d submit to you that the loss of this shared knowledge is one of the biggest issues facing Canadians today. Students who don’t know the birds in their neighbourhoods will not notice that they are missing. Students who are not in touch with the land will not notice that droughts last longer or that winters had heavier snowfalls in the past. It’s a massive problem that in classrooms across Canada students can describe the problems of polar bears drowning in the Arctic but can’t tell you what fish live in the local ponds or the colour of a robin’s egg.

In 2008, the Oxford University Press announced that they were removing nature words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary because they weren’t being used in classrooms. I’d ask you to consider how far society has gone, knowing that the word “beaver” has been removed from one of the standard dictionaries used in elementary school classrooms across Canada.

I’d like to move on to health. In many jurisdictions, in response to childhood obesity, students take part in daily physical activity programs. These programs haven’t worked. A 2009 study found no impact on obesity in 15 separate studies conducted around the world. Studies on organized sports have found the exact same thing. In fact, the rise of childhood obesity has exactly mirrored the rise of organized sport in Canada. I’d hesitate to stretch the causality of that number too far, except to say that the growth of sport in Canada hasn’t helped this epidemic. Outdoor programs help, because they encourage unstructured play in the outdoors on an ongoing basis.

It’s time for government to treat programs that engage young people in the outdoors in the same fashion as sports programs are treated. A tax credit similar to the child fitness tax credit should be extended to programs that engage young people in nature. A tax credit of this sort would serve to get programs like Scouts Canada back on the menu for many families.

It’s also time for the government to work more closely with programs that are making a difference in the conservation sector. While great work has been done in Parks Canada’s Xplorers program, the My Parks Pass program, which was only used by about 6,000 students across Canada last year, has not had the same kind of return on investment. The My Parks Pass program would be much more effective if it were expanded to allow members or organized groups free access to Canada’s national parks and historic sites. Currently, organized groups do not use these resources to the extent they should because of the cost.

Allowing more access would permit members of organized programs to be in these areas more often, and they would become advocates for them. It’s worth knowing that studies show that many adult users of parks first visit these areas as part of an organized youth group. In other words, no-charge passes become a no-cost marketing tool to expand the use of the parks. In the long run, they will expand park revenues.

We also need to learn how to collaborate across sectors and replicate successes. There’s an opportunity for charitable groups to engage more young people in the outdoors. Scouts Canada has been working with the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre in Jasper to replicate the programs that have been developed at Scout camps across the country. We need to build more partnerships like this to create both short-term opportunities for service, such as learn-to-camp programs, and also longer-term opportunities, such as a summer service corps of young adults who would be embedded in national parks. They would be able to help people in the park do camping stuff and would communicate with friends back home using social media.

One of the hard lessons those of us in the field are learning is that in order to make our programs relevant to neophytes, we have to use a limited amount of technology in the field. Digital photography has been found to have a strong ability to bridge the gap between worlds, as have certain apps. If we’re going to connect people in any meaningful way to the outdoors, we need to ensure that we’re not turning people away with a dogmatic “no technology” approach.

A second hard lesson we must learn is that the look-but-don’t-touch philosophy toward outdoor areas has left millions of people disconnected from the very land that’s been protected for them. When I think about how we treat conservation in this country, I’m reminded of the words of the Five Man Electrical Band: we “put up a fence to keep me out or to keep Mother Nature in”. There are certainly good reasons for that in some terrain, but there are other areas where it would be acceptable for young people to roll rocks back to see what’s underneath or to skip stones in the local pond.

In a recent article David Sobel, from Antioch University in the States, wrote that our overzealous protection of some areas and telling people that they should look but not touch are creating a generation of people who are not as connected as they should be to the natural world. It’s ironic that when we look at the long view, our protection schemes may actually be damaging the lands we’ve aimed to protect.

In closing, I’d like to invite you all to spend a day at a Scout camp in the near future to see what a program that engages young people in nature on their own terms looks like. Most of our youth come from urban areas, and after some time in the woods, they come to view those areas as their own. We believe that the best practice for engaging our youth in conservation projects is to ensure that they first learn to love the land by spending time on it. Then they will become stewards of it.

Thank you.

(Member posts do not necessarily represent the views of AEE.)

AEE Blog 2012 Annual Report

The delivered these stats about our blog in 2012! Thanks for making it a successful year!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Conference from a OFArian’s Perspective: Binky Martin-Tollette

Binky, and her husband Sanford, have been to several AEE Conferences. They are the directors of the Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp in Little Rock, Arkansas. (“OFArian” is a member of the Old Folks & Allies Affiliate Group.)

ImageHi Everyone,

I’m writing to you from our regional meeting at the Association for Experiential Education.  Sanford Tollette, my husband (and boss), is speaking now, so maybe I have time to write this.  Haha—don’t tell him I wrote that.  He is giving recognition to Joel Cryer, who we all miss, especially those from the Mid South Region.  Joel had great passion for our region, and he worked hard to bring Mexico into our region, and we are a richer organization because of it. 

We brought 7 other staff members with us to the conference, some with many, many years of experience and some with only one year under their belt.  I think I have enjoyed watching the younger staff at the conference and seeing their world view in terms of experiential education explode right in front of me.  I have even talked with other conference attendees who have told me how impressed they were with some of our staff.  Makes a “momma” proud.

I was fortunate to convene the AEE international conference in Little Rock in 2007.  Thanks to Joel Cryer we were able to secure Jasper Hunt for one of our keynote speakers, so we were thrilled that we would be able to hear him again this year, as he was chosen to give the Kurt Hahn address.  As usual Jasper did not disappoint, and I found myself taking many notes that I have already reviewed and will review again.  In short, he was awesome, and I am so appreciative of him for being willing to speak to us.

So far the workshops have been wonderful.  I really like those that keep me moving.  In one of my workshops we did an Amazing Race style event around Madison.  Very cool. 

We also brought our daughters Zoe and Zia to the conference.  They have been busy decorating name tags for donations.  Their charity of choice this year is the American Red Cross to support victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Makes a Momma real proud.

One of the coolest things that I’ve done this year is a group activity in the Exhibit Hall.  There was a drum with a two-foot diameter with 8 foot webbing strands extending from it.  Each participant held onto one of the webbing strands while someone dropped a ball on the drum with our goal to keep the ball bouncing on top of the drum.  SO MUCH FUN!!!

As usual I’ve had some great conversations and lots of good times.  I’m enjoying Madison, for sure!


Binky Martin-Tollette

Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp

Little Rock, Arkansas

The Conference from a Student Perspective: Kyle Wakayama

Kyle is a student at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. This is his first AEE Conference. 

Being my first AEE conference I was not sure what to expect. When I first arrived at the hotel I felt as if I was surrounded for passionate and caring people. They were engaging and extremely positive people– I felt at home right away. The first day of the conference really exposed me to the laid back and welcoming environment of AEE. The interactions I had with others and the tone set of the opening address dissipated qualms that I had with presenting my workshop. The “Technology-Driven Teambuilding” with my co-presenter classmate and fellow first-timer, Mike Neuman started with a less than ideal start, but we quickly adapted to provide to our attendees. We were happy with our first workshop and extremely glad that we could contribute to the experiential education field. I look forward to learning much more from the community over the next few days, and meeting many others. AEE YOU ROCK!!!


Member Presenter Spotlight: Geraldine Paredes Vasquez

Geraldine Paredes Vasquez will be speaking in Madison about experiential education activities her organization, WHY Bolivia, uses for youth empowerment and social integration. 

ImageWorkshop Title:

MAYMA: Experiential Education Activities for Self-Awareness, Youth Empowerment And Social Integration

Workshop Description:

Come and explore with us some of the experiential education instruments, models and activities we have been using successfully for youth empowerment and social integration in Bolivia. As an association we have put together a facilitation guide with the highlights of our work with diverse populations, from backgrounds such as: urban, rural, privileged, less privileged, Christian religions, non-Christian religions, and others. In this workshop we will actively explore some of these activities and create together the links for what could be useful for your work, what is new, and what is not.

Describe your role in experiential education:

In 2005, I gathered people from different backgrounds in Bolivia with the aim of creating an association that would work on issues of social integration in our country. As we started empirically to develop exchange programs between youth from urban and rural areas, we became an association in 2007 and started a collaboration with the Dutch National Committee of the United World Colleges (UWC). UWC is a world-wide educational movement for peace. My first encounter with experiential education has been as a scholar and member of this international movement founded by Kurt Hahn in 1962. Since then, our team has undergone various professional training as well as designed and facilitated programs and workshops with urban and rural youth from a wide diversity of backgrounds in Bolivia and Argentina. I am currently Director of Programs and Strategic Alliances for our association.

How long have you been involved with AEE?

I have been involved with AEE since 2010. I am currently a member of the International Affiliate Group and Natives, Africans, Asians, Latinos(as), and Allies. I am also very active in supporting the development of the AEE Latin American Conference and related outreach.

What have you most enjoyed about being an AEE member?

I find a genuine spirit for people collaborating at AEE, be that as professionals, organizations, or other ways. I believe collaborative systems such as this, rather than competitive ones, empower people in society and that brings the best of us all.

Be a part of AEE’s celebration!

Hello Everyone!40Forwardlogo-150.jpg

At the AEE Celebration Dinner in Madison, we would like to include you, even if you cannot make it to the conference.

Here’s how it works…

We would like for you to email one or more of the following:

  • Words of wisdom in written form
  • Photos of yourself in EE action—past and/or present
  • Video of yourself briefly discussing Experiential Education

The goal is to make a PowerPoint presentation for the Celebration Dinner. We are looking for entertainment and inspiration to help us all remember why we do what we do.

Below are some questions you can use to spur some ideas.  Feel free to be creative in your replies. (Please send to me, Binky Martin-Tollette, at as soon as you can)!

  • What advice would you give to a new practitioner?
  • When did you realize that you were or wanted to be an experiential educator?
  • What is an experiential educator?
  • What has been one of your highlights related to experiential education?
  • Why do you attend experiential education conferences?
  • What has been one of your lowest points related to experiential education?
  • Tell us about a significant education experience that you had in your life that helped lead you to the field of experiential education.
  • Why is AEE important to you?
  • Have you ever considered changing professions?  Tell us about that.
  • What is your favorite experiential activity? And lead us in it if you can.
  • Who do you look up to in the field of experiential education and why?
  • Who are your role models or heroes?
  • What book do you recommend to practitioners?
  • How do you want to be remembered?  What legacy do you want to lead?
  • What is your wish for the future?

Have fun!


Member Presenter Spotlight: Dave Kampfschulte

Dave Kampfschulte is the founder and owner of Amazing Circles Workshops. He is also the author of Amazing Circles, which can be purchased in the AEE bookstore. 

Workshop Title:

Creating the Caring and Sharing Classroom

Workshop Description:

Participants will become members of a class/group that experiences the transition from a group of individuals to one of respect and community through a series of interactive activities that connects the instructor with the students and the students with each other. Learning soars as students feel comfortable participating and are more apt to relate life experiences to the lessons at hand.  Warning – be prepared to participate. This is not a lecture.

Describe your role in experiential education:

I have spent 30 years as an educator and facilitator. I am the author of Amazing Circles: Creating and facilitating a safe emotional enviornment and the educational power of storyFor 10 years, I was a wilderness trip leader and I co-founded and directed a program where every student in our district had some kind of experiential small-group experience led by student facilitators

How long have you been involved with AEE?

12 years

What have you most enjoyed about being an AEE member?

Getting renewed from the endless ideas that flow from our meetings and the pure joy of interacting with like-minded people.

What can we expect from your workshop at this year’s 40th Annual International Conference?

Fast-paced, energetic, interactive workshop that will show participants simple ways to create community with their groups and classrooms.

Anything else you want to say about your business or workshop?

I love the trust, open discussion, and light bulbs clicking on that come from this work and I am always ready to travel to do one more. Website is

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Countdown to Denver

41st Annual International ConferenceOctober 31st, 2013
Denver, CO


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