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Due to daylight savings, I am up before I need to be and thought I would post one last time before I head out of town... I am left with several impressions from this years AORE conference.
1. The growing "green" or environmental trend. The field is increasingly paying attention to its environmental responsibilities both as educators of people in the outdoors and as examples for others to follow in terms of our ecological footprint. This, I feel, will be a growing trend as we begin to re-imagine what outdoor recreation and education will be like in the future.
2. Standards and standardization. We couldn't hide forever from the effects of No Child Left Behind and the growing influence of neo-liberalism in our schools and educational practice. Well, it is here. There was a lot of discussion and buzz at this conference about accreditation, certifications, and standardization in the field. The message was: if you don't do it, the state or federal government will. But of course, the question should not be standards vs no standards, it should be what KIND of standards. No one is really against the idea that we should have some commonly agreed upon best practices. How the field wrestles with this issue will be interesting to follow in the coming years.
3. The rise of degree programs. More and more students (it seems to me) are coming out of outdoor recreation and education degree programs. Do they have jobs waiting for them? It will be interesting to see how the rise of this field in terms of academic preparation plays out once many of these folks graduate and are looking for gainful employment.
4. Research. The field as a whole is hungry for evidence-based research that supports the philosophy of what we do. Where this research will come from and how we wrestle with the differences between advocacy based assessment and more "objective" research will also be interesting to watch in the coming years.
5. Lastly, I am left with how much fun this conference continues to be. Great people, wonderful sessions and activities, and a general vibe of informality, support, and encouragement of all. AORE broke the attendance record this year at about 540 attenders. Hope to see even more next year in San Diego.
Signing off from Asheville.
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