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Experiential education is all hands-on at WVU outdoor center

Experiential education is all hands-on at WVU outdoor center
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BRUCETON MILLS — The West Virginia University Outdoor Education Center in Bruceton Mills was the site of the Association for Experiential Education for the Mid-Atlantic Region conference on March 24.

“These people can do anything from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), outdoor education, therapeutic educations, camps, etc.,” AEE Chairwoman Colleen Williams said. “A lot of our workshops for this weekend are geared toward staff trainings, working with disabled individuals, teaching a STEM program. A variety of programming brings these educators together. It is a very small world, and you will find everyone generally knows each other.”

Williams said the conference was delayed for a year when the AEE decided to regroup and see what it could do to revitalize their conference.

“I contacted WVU, and they said, ‘We can do this this and this.’ We wanted to find a place with students who can connect with the professionals, and we came across WVU — and it is amazing. We had a budget for 30 people to attend and we have 70,” Williams said.

“It is a huge increase from the past. We have a lot of universities coming together and talking about what they do at their facility, and what they can do to make it better and sharing resources,” she added.

Attendees were able to attend a pre-conference workshop on rock-climbing rescues.

“We are practicing technical skill development, and the way to go up and down on a rope if you are a rescuer and your climber is stuck halfway up,” said Kevin Shon, coordinator of the Adventure WV Program at the Outdoor Recreation Center. “We would have done this at Coopers Rock, but there was too much snow over there, so we came here to the Alpine Tower.”

Jan Kiger from Fairmont State University attended the roundtable and technical skill development workshop. She said she had learned a lot and gained information she is looking forward to taking back to the university.

“This was interesting because it showed us different techniques if you have to rescue a person, and getting into the system, getting to them and lowering the both of you back down safely,” Kiger said. “I have never been in a position where I have had to rescue an individual while climbing, but this information is important to know, and you never know when you will need it.”

The people at the rock-climbing rescue technique roundtable said they have never had to rescue a person, and could generally talk the person who was stuck through what they needed to do.

“But again, you never know when you will have to do a rescue, so these things are good to know,” Kiger said.

Kiger also attended the aerial symposium that included an odyssey course that pulled professionals together.

“That was great,” Kiger said. “We had snow, so some of the things we couldn’t do. The presentations were excellent.”

Conference attendees were scheduled to experience the WVU Zip-Line Canopy Tour, but due to the weather, that event was canceled.

The 2019 AEE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference has been scheduled at the WVU Outdoor Education Center for March 29 through April 1, 2019. Registration begins Oct. 1.

“We would love to have local teachers attend this conference also,” Williams said.

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