My name is Christopher Mangaser and I am an Outdoor and Experiential Education Teaching Candidate here at Queens University. I have previously attended the University of Ontario Institute of Technology taking a Criminology Degree with sights on becoming a police officer. However, working with many youth organizations, I found myself wanting to become a teacher. I’ve always done things differently because I did not want to be like everyone else.
OEE is a cross between my two passions
There was also a passion for being in the outdoors. I would often find myself hiking, canoeing, boating, and working on bushcraft skills. Whether it was camping under a makeshift shelter during my teen years as a cadet, or out in the water doing search and rescue with the Coast Guard. I wanted to be outside taking in what nature has to offer. Finding the OEE (Outdoor and Experiential Education) program was a jackpot because it was a cross between my two passions, working with youth and the outdoors. So here it is, the beginning of how I fell in love with the OEE program. How a boy from the Durham Region came to Kingston, wanting to become something better than what I left behind.
Fostering Community Outside of the Classroom
What makes the OEE program special is that it is arguably a different education experience when compared to the average Bachelor of Education program that is offered across different universities. The overall goal of OEE is to expand the learning outside of the classroom. There is a mutual understanding that learning does not have to be confined within the four walls of a room. The majority of my university career was spent in auditoriums and classroom, listening to the professor talk while the students take notes. This was also prevalent during my high school years where it was a lecture-based lesson followed with worksheets. However, my first official OEE class was on the other side of the spectrum. My colleagues and I experienced this first hand during our time at OEE field camp. You see, all of us had a chance to come together to learn, bond, and create a community up by Otter Lake, not in a classroom.
Field Camp leads to growth, memories and bonds for a lifetime
For some of us, it was the first time meeting the 25 other individuals that will be in the program for the year. For others, it was a chance to explore a deeper meaning behind friendship and loyalty. For me, it was an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. Field camp was supposed to serve as an introduction to the Outdoor Education and Experiential Program. Little did we know that it was just a small idea being planted into our mind. An idea that would expand and grow at an exponential rate that would be transferred onto future students. What we didn’t realize coming into field camp was the personal growth and a bond that will be formed to last a lifetime.
Versatile experiences and knowledge with the outdoors
What I found during field camp was that everyone brought something unique to the table. It was clear that the intent was to learn from one another. There were individuals who had an interest in biology, often pointing out different facts about bugs and insects. Or individuals who were keen on keeping the world clean by picking up one piece of litter at a time. We had lifeguards who explained the concepts of water, and canoers who taught the physics and history of canoeing and portaging. It was a privilege to be surrounded by people knowledgeable in different subjects of outdoor and experiential education.
Living and embodying experiential education
Our previous knowledge came into play during the activities. We were split into groups, in charge of our own learning. No lesson plan and no guidelines, just a title to an event and off we went. We had the chance to complete four events, canoeing/familiarization, orienteering and map making, rattle making/solo experience, and a nature walk. During those times we were able to learn from one another, to expand our thinking and our knowledge on what outdoor education is. Little did we know, we were living what experiential education embodies. We had the chance to become students, doing the things we love and care for in a way that was not confined within a classroom.
Field camp was filled with memories that are forever ingrained into our hearts. So much so that it bonded all of us together. Memories and moments such as the stories we shared over a fire which would never leave those campgrounds. Or waters that were paddled in search for the infamous OEE rock. I can still hear the conversations about life ring in my ears as we carve away at our spoons, and sight of the sunset that went down over the horizon as we sip tea. It was in those moments where it felt like home. I watched the strangers around me slowly became more than just another student that will be in my program. The OEE program at Queen's truly holds something different that is unique to a Bachelor of Education Program. In my case, it was an opportunity to live again, to find myself, and to discover what it truly means to be happy. This is just the beginning of a journey that holds no end. I hope that my stories will inspire you to look into the OEE program here at Queen's. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a little whimsy along the way.