Faculty of Education

Queen's University
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Outdoor & Experiential Education

Outdoor & Experiential Education (OEE) is designed to introduce teacher candidates to a wide variety of ways environmental and experiential programs can be offered in various school and community-based settings.

  • Teacher candidates in life jackets.

    A class photo of OEE teacher candidates.

  • Teacher candidates playing guitar.

    Using the arts in an informal setting to build community.

  • Teacher candidates in front of a chalk board in a non-traditional classroom.

    Field trip to a local outdoor education centre.

  • Teacher candidates with backpacks.

    Field trip to the Seed Sanctuary.

  • Teacher candidates on snowshoes pulling a sled.

    Experiencing winter during the school year.

  • Teacher candidates standing with their arms around each other on a log.

    With only 25 in the program each year, teacher candidates form close friendships.

Overview

  • It is offered to Concurrent Education students in their final year as well as Consecutive Education teacher candidates.
  • For both Primary-Junior and Intermediate-Senior teacher candidates.
  • Integrates conventional teacher education with preparation of leading dynamic school and/or community-based outdoor, nature-oriented activities.
  • Explores experiential education theory and hands-on methodologies as they apply to a variety of environmental contexts/all teaching subjects.
  • Teacher candidates in OEE will complete 20 weeks of placement, 3 of which are at an outdoor facility (Winter Practicum), and 3 of which can be done outside a school setting and anywhere in the world as long as it is related to the program (Alternative Practicum).
  • Travel fellowships support education-related travel outside Canada such as for alternative practicum placements.
  • Program orientation and field camp is held in late August.
  • Emphasizes the development of leadership skills required to implement innovative outdoor and experiential programs through examining the skills required to propose, administer, evaluate and teach such programs.
  • Develops critical thinking skills pertaining to contemporary environmental and educational issues.

See the Faculty of Education calendar for information about program policies and fees and course descriptions.  

Courses & Practicum

The field camp initiates community building for each year of OEE teacher candidates. This initial sense of community is enlarged through classes, additional events and workshops held throughout the rest of the year. See the Academic Calendar for degree requirements and course descriptions. See course descriptions (EDST 260 and FOCI 260).

Regular practicum placements mean that you will work alongside other education professionals in classrooms for 20 weeks: one component in the first summer (3 weeks); two components in the fall (3 weeks each); one component in the winter term (4 weeks) followed by an alternative practicum (3 weeks); and one component in the second summer (4 weeks).

Candidates in the OEE program complete the winter term practicum in an Outdoor or Experiential Education setting.  This practicum must be in Ontario with an OCT certified teacher in good standing. Typically this practicum is at an outdoor centre, with an integrated program in a public school, or at an alternative school like a credited program for youth at risk. 

For the 3 week alternative practicum, OEE teacher candidates are required to complete an alternative practicum that is in a non-traditional outdoor based setting. You can do the alternative practicum anywhere in the world as long as it is related to your program. There are travel fellowships available that can help you get there. 

Admission Requirements

Selection of Consecutive Education teacher candidates is based on the application requirements in the TEAS Requirements for Queen's as well as the supplemental documents submitted to Student Services.  See How to Apply.

Selection of Concurrent Education teacher candidates is based on the application made in December of year 4 (supplemental documents).

For information regarding admission, please contact Student Services.

The OEE Student Community

The OEE program is looking for teacher candidates who can bring unique perspectives and a range of experiences to a learning community. This allows each year of students to learn from each other as they discuss and participate in a broad range of activities designed to encourage critical thinking. You do not need to come “fully loaded” with certifications* and years of experience in some outdoor field. We attempt to accept a variety of students to the OEE program, such that their experiences are complementary and they can learn from one another.

The program is designed to have teacher candidates explore and learn about a multitude of OEE approaches and the theories which led to their development. Introduced ideas can later be explored through practicum opportunities. An advantage to getting into the OEE program is the opportunity to choose a practicum environment that suits your personal interest or will allow you to explore an approach you are considering for your professional career. In other words, sometimes people who come in with a lot of experience in adventure programs realize that they might be more interested in exploring Forest School programs with primary level students. Likewise, some people who have naturalist work experience may decide that high school integrated programs that allow a longer period of time to get to know students is a strong area of interest. The emphasis of the program is on exploring the many forms of outdoor education and finding out where your future might reside. 
The OEE program is comprised of dedicated and open-minded students committed to personal reflection. This continued exploration will help to shape their professional vision. Selected readings and theories change yearly to reflect the constantly evolving field.  Likewise, field trips are based on student interest and initiative and have included: 

  • Local organic farms
  • Heirloom seed sanctuary
  • Local outdoor centres
  • Conservation areas
  • Water treatment plants
  • Sewage treatment facilities
  • Nursery and morgue visitation
  • Native cultural sites and sweat lodges
  • Winter camping

Students develop administrative skills through organizing workshops and certification courses such as:

  • First Aid/Wilderness First Responder (WFR)
  • Knitting club
  • Swift Water Rescue
  • Outdoor Council of Canada (OCC) - Leadership
  • Aquatic Rescue
  • Ontario Recreation Canoeing Association (ORCA) certifications
  • Interpretive nature experiences
  • Paleo fitness workouts
  • Mukluk making
  • Silk screening

*There are many lakes and rivers in Canada, especially in Ontario, and the majority of outdoor activities that occur are on or near water. So, to be a professional OEE instructor you need to have an awareness of how to ensure aquatic activities are safe. This awareness is best developed through aquatic safety lessons. 

OEE students who do not have a history of swimming lessons upon arrival to the program are generally able to obtain their swimming certification, provided that they are reasonably fit. It is highly recommended that you begin to work toward appropriate First Aid and swimming certification so that this standard requirement will not hinder any future work applications. The outdoor experiential field has a long history of service learning and developed many of the initial rescue organizations.

Career Opportunities

The Bachelor of Education degree can open doors to the many work environments that need good communicators and educators, but are not in a conventional school setting. OEE alumni are engaged in a variety of careers ranging from full-time classroom teaching to work in other related fields such as service, environment, and health. Many employers actively seek out their dynamic qualities. 

OEE graduates have gone on to propose and implement various programs, such as some of the initial environmental integrated programs, nature-based preschools, and unique environmental initiatives within a school board.
Some other examples of employment opportunities include:

  • Classroom teaching within experiential emphasis (public or private school setting)
  • Leadership positions, such as principals and camp directors
  • Independent outdoor programs (e.g., Outward Bound, eco-tourism lodges)
  • Outdoor-focused businesses 
  • Teaching abroad
  • Environmental advocacy and awareness to organizations and businesses 

For further information, see Education Career Services and our Alumni Spotlights.

OEE History

The Faculty of Education at Queen's University has offered outdoor and experiential education courses since the founding of a professional school in 1968. This makes the OEE program the oldest university-based outdoor program in Canada, and is truly a program rather than just a singular course. Since the early days, the courses have taken on many forms, such as open country and personal growth courses, whale boating experiences on Lake Ontario, river seminars, the development of the first ropes course in Ontario at the barn, Nomads North a canoe-based Outward Bound-style course, Walden II an intentional community, a traveling program in comparative studies of alternative educational programs in the northeastern states, and a co-op program.

Today the OEE program is supporting an initiative that will bring to Queen’s campus an Outdoor Classroom, Paleo Fitness Playground, Restored Native Plants Area, campfire and Gardening Space. Whether on a university campus or at an elementary school, the grounds or outdoor space needs to be inviting and clearly demonstrate a connection with nature.  OEE graduates are encouraged to take similar visions into workplaces wherever they go. 

OEE Testimonials

"OEE was a community, its own little civilization of like-minded yet alternative educators. With differences and similarities, I was able to learn a wealth of knowledge and insight to opportunities that I never would have known existed while being comfortable sharing my own."

Sasja Zanen, OEE 2012

Sasja Zanen


"I would say this program is a perfect option if you are self-directed in your learning, interested in deepening your understanding of experiential and traditional education, and ready to question your own values in a constructive way. If you're open-minded and can learn to take something positive out of an unexpected situation, you have the potential to do well in this program."

Erin Nicolardi, OEE 2012

Erin Nicolardi


"OEE was a fantastic opportunity to meet other teacher candidates from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. It really opened my eyes to the variety of ways one can teach and experience nature and the outdoors."

Mary-Anne Reid, OEE 2010

Mary-Anne Reid


"OEE proved to me that a career outdoors was not only entirely possible, but there were more opportunities than I had previously thought. I made many connections, both personal and professional that have opened many doors since graduation. The world of OEE is inspiring."

Peter Vooys, OEE 2008

Peter Vooys

Contact Us

Inquiries should be directed via email to Student Services.