S5E7: What career opportunities exist in the outdoor recreation industry?
Maine is known as Vacationland to lovers of outdoor recreation from around the world. An industry grew out of Mainers’ and tourists’ passion for hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing and other outside pastimes, and it generates $3 billion in economic activity for the state. The Outdoor Leadership program at UMaine was created to take advantage of this opportunity.
Working with an existing program at the University of Maine at Machias and University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H camps, this new program is preparing students for careers in tourism, education and other fields that pertain to outside activities and learning. In this episode of “The Maine Question,” we head outside with a roundtable discussion that explores the outdoor recreation industry.
Chris Bartram: I truly believe that outdoor education is this magical thing. It’s hard for people to understand how developmental it really is. Our dream is to have everyone experience that, for everyone to know how special this is, know‑how transformative it can be in people’s lives.
Ron Lisnet: That’s Chris Bartram talking about the effect that experiencing the great outdoors can have on people, something he sees on a daily basis as assistant director at the Maine Bound Adventure Center at the University of Maine.
Outdoor recreation is a big part of many people’s lives in the State of Maine, and it’s now being recognized as an attractive and viable career option. I’m Ron Lisnet. This is the “Maine Question Podcast.”
The numbers that define the economic impact of the outdoor industry are staggering. Nationally, it generates around $800 billion in economic activity and creates between five and seven million jobs.
In Maine, outdoor recreation generates three billion‑dollar in economic impact. Little wonder, with the mountain ranges in the North and West of the state, vast forests, 6,000 lakes and ponds, countless rivers and streams, and the lengthy coastline giving access to the ocean, there are world‑class outdoor recreation opportunities in Maine just about everywhere you turn.
The College of Education and Human Development in UMaine has created a new program to take advantage of those opportunities. The Outdoor Leadership Program prepares students for careers in nonprofit outdoor and experiential education, school‑based programs guiding stewardship of natural resources and lands, and many other job opportunities.
The program at UMaine has some great partners in this effort, including the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management Program at UMaine Machias, the 4‑H youth camps around the state, among others. We take a deep dive into this industry, which was one of few to actually grow during the pandemic with a roundtable of faculty members at both campuses and others who helped put this program together.
What are students learning? Where can they take this education? What is the potential for this industry to grow in Maine and beyond? Just a few of the many areas we explore in this episode of The Maine Question.
This is a big group we have here, and we thank you all for taking the time to talk to us. This sounds like a great initiative going on here and eager to find out more about it. Since we have so many folks here, let’s have each of you quickly say your name and what your title is, so people who are listening can know who is who. Maybe let’s start with Ryder.
Ryder Scott: Hello, everyone. I’m Ryder Scott. I’m the executive director of the 4‑H camp and learning centers for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Lauren Jacobs: Hey, everyone. I’m Lauren Jacobs. I’m a lecturer in Outdoor Leadership at the University of Maine. I coordinate our Outdoor Leadership Academic Program.
Chris: My name is Chris Bartram. I use he/him pronouns. I am the assistant director over at Maine Bound Adventure Center, the co‑curricular program at University of Maine.
Karen Beeftink: Hi. I’m Karen Beeftink, and I’m a professor in the Outdoor Recreation and Leadership Program at the University of Maine at Machias.
Ron: Great. Thanks all for taking the time to talk to us here. I’m not sure who to direct this question to so whoever has the most knowledge can take it. Can you take us through the discussions and the eventual decision to start this Outdoor Leadership Program?
Lauren: I can start and explain where the academic program for Outdoor Leadership came. It’s important to recognize that even though it’s new here at UMaine, there’s been pieces building, both here on our campus and certainly at UMaine Machias for a long, long time. We had a history of having an outdoor education minor here in the School of Kinesiology, Physical Education, Athletic Training.
For a number of reasons that minor didn’t last. It didn’t stay. It was a little bit too reliant on one individual, and it ended up falling apart. In 2017, I was hired and asked to rebuild and restructure a program. We created the Outdoor Leadership Minor, which is a 19‑credit, seven‑course minor in Outdoor Leadership.
Then a year after that, we got approval to add it as a concentration under the major of kinesiology and physical education. Now it’s also a four‑year degree option.
Then importantly, even though the Outdoor Leadership Academic Program is new on our campus, Karen’s program at UMaine Machias has been there for a very long time and providing not the exact same thing, but a similar academic program for Machias students. Then we have a strong history of co‑curricular outdoor programs at UMaine and UMaine Machias.
Having Maine Bound Adventure Center, of course, as a co‑curricular program, and we’re close partners in our work. Then, of course, the 4‑H centers as well, these off‑campus and often before‑college experience for younger folks.
Ron: Karen, why was this the right time to do this? What’s it like now to have this partnership going on?
Karen: Wow. There’s so many ways that you can answer that. It’s the right time to do it, because one, COVID. Oh, my gosh. There’s such a need now. The whole world is seeing the need for outdoors and outdoor recreation as part of people’s overall health.
Any efforts to help work with students to pursue careers in that direction is just extremely timely right now, given the pandemic that we’re in and given the push for people to get outside, do activities outside, and pursue these healthy activities. The pandemic is it came along and it’s just made this all the more timely, this collaboration.
Ron: Ryder and Chris, maybe you guys can talk a little bit about painting the picture for us. The big picture in terms of the opportunities and the need for this out there in the world, so to speak. Ryder, maybe to start with you.
Ryder: Sure. We live in a beautiful state with unbelievable outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources. Outdoor recreation is one of the only sectors of the economy in Maine that grew significantly throughout the COVID pandemic. It was already on an upward trajectory to start with. It’s a three billion‑dollar industry in the state of Maine.
The opportunity to encourage young people in my role with the Early College Outdoor Leadership pathway, I am really focused on steering young people to the University of Maine. Many of our rural kids in the state have an interest in the outdoors but don’t necessarily know that there’s an opportunity to get a degree in outdoor leadership.
Helping them to find their pathway to the university is not only good for them, their own personal growth, and higher education and career trajectory, but it also, in the long term, will be good for the state in supplying a qualified workforce to contribute to that recreation economy.
Ron: Chris, you were part of this industry before you came here to the University. How big is this industry? What is the trajectory, do you think? Is this a growing area?
Chris: I’ll speak in terms of climbing because climbing is my passion and where my profession has definitely been more rooted. Climbing, on the whole, we’re looking at…In 2017, pumped $12.5 billion into the economy. This was a fringe sport in the ’90s. Now it’s a $12.5 billion sport.
When you’re considering that, the growth is it’s so significant that this is evermore the time to do it. We see our students here at Maine Bound and OL graduating and instantly getting jobs within the state, and filling that need, because of their experiences here at UMaine.
Knowing how significant this growth is should be the driving factor for why we’re doing this and for looking at the future of the industry.
Ron: There’s a lot of moving parts here. I just want to make sure I understand and our listeners understand. We have the relatively new program here at the University of Maine. Then Karen’s program at UMaine, Machias. That’s working together.
Ryder, maybe you can fill in the gap in terms of you talk about the Early College Program. You work through the 4‑H centers, of which there are a handful around the state. How does that fit into all of this?
Ryder: Thanks, Ron, for the question. First of all, we have the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Operates four 4‑H youth development centers. These are dynamic outdoor education centers. Some of which operate year‑round in partnership with our local schools and our local communities. All of them offer open enrollment, outdoor and environmental education‑based summer camps.
Open enrollment camps for all Maine youth. Our mission is to keep those programs affordable and accessible regardless of family background. There are lots of summer camp opportunities in Maine. Most of them are quite expensive and out of reach for a lot of Maine families.
That’s what we’re passionate about. Connecting young people to the outdoors and making those experiences equitable and accessible to all. Several years ago in 2017, actually, then provost Hecker asked us at the 4‑H centers to submit a proposal to start an early college program. His advice was to do what’s authentic to us.
We created the idea for an outdoor leadership early college pathway. It just so happened that Lauren’s program was getting started at around the same time. The two of us as well as Chris and Karen started meeting several years ago, and began to develop a vision for a pre‑college set of experiences that would then create pathways to a four‑year degree.
Ron: Maybe we can get a comment from each of you, a lightning round on this question. It’s an obvious question. Why is Maine a good place to do this? Do you have a favorite spot, depending on the sport, that is your go‑to place? Whoever wants to go first? I see a lot of people pondering this one.
Karen: Sure. I’ll jump in there. Why is Maine a good place to do this? We have incredible natural resources that offer so many different kinds of experiences for people to participate in these types of activities. We’ve got lakes and rivers for paddling.
In our coastal campus here in Machias, we’ve got the ocean right nearby. We’ve got wonderful hiking trails. It’s a stunning and beautiful place to be outside and to encourage other people to get outside. We are vacationland. People come here for our natural resources and to do these activities.
For me, my favorite spot is definitely the Bold Coast. I’ve got a very soft spot for hiking on the Bold Coast.
Ron: Chris, how about you?
Chris: I echo what Karen said. I’m not sure I have much to add. We have it all. I’ll add from the climbing and mountaineering perspective, we have Katahdin, which is one of the only Alpine mountains on the east coast. It’s super rare. The fact that we have that home in our state is incredible.
Then, in addition, we have Acadia National Park, which is a tourism center for the Northeast in so many ways. You can go down there any weekend and see how many people are engaging in outdoor recreation in our state.
For me, the place that’s probably got my heart is Acadia. It’s the special combination of the mountains and the ocean that are found there. The beautiful cliffs that they have and the amount of time that I’ve spent there, I have a strong connection to this space.
Ron: Lauren, as I said, obvious question. Maine has many have alluded to, has so many opportunities. For you, this is a natural fit for what you’re doing for your career, right?
Lauren: Everyone’s talked about the state as a whole, which is so true. One of the reasons that this is so important to be part of the University of Maine system is that within that state as a whole, we have campuses in every corner of the state. That’s super unique and amazing.
Our Orono campus is on a river with paddling literally in our front yard. Karen down in Machias. Machias is on the ocean with amazing oceanside hiking, sea kayaking, and river tripping in their backyard. We have campuses in northern Maine that have amazing snowfall. We have campuses in western Maine at the foot of the Western Maine Mountains.
As a University of Maine system, we have amazing access to all these corners this make sense. It’s why this is perfect. The favorite spot is very, very, very hard/impossible. I will say, actually, I have a super soft spot for a place that’s close to our home here on campus.
It’s out at the Sunkhaze National Wildlife Refuge in Milford. That place reminds me. It’s only 10, 15 minutes from campus, but you’re way out in the middle of the woods. This super unique peat bog environment and in the winter, you can cross country ski on the crust out on the peat bog. It’s beautiful.
It reminds me that some of the best adventures are right in our backyard that you don’t have to go very far.
Ron: Ryder, you’re based at those 4‑H camps. I imagine you have no shortage of great places to take the kids that you’re dealing with. Many options for you, right?
Ryder: We certainly do. In answer to the question of why Maine is a great place to do this, I’ll say that for…Again, zooming out big picture, for many years, we’ve been concerned in the state of Maine about a brain drain, about our best and brightest young folks leaving the state for jobs elsewhere.
It’s important that the University of Maine system celebrates all of the amazing assets that Maine has versus trying to be something that we’re not. The outdoor leadership program is a phenomenal example of that.
It’s our hope and our passion that we’re connecting young people with those experiences, not necessarily with the goal of keeping them in Maine, but certainly with the goal of helping them reach their fullest potential through a degree and a meaningful career here or elsewhere.
In terms of my personal passion for places in Maine, certainly, others have mentioned Acadia. I also have a deep connection and a lot of history with Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. That definitely makes the list. More recent years, connecting groups of young folks as well as my own family, I’d have to pick the Rangeley Lakes Region.
Ron: Good choice. Good choices all, for sure. This is maybe for the academic side of the folks we have here. As you develop that and try to move people into careers, what kinds of jobs and careers are we looking at? Somebody mentioned may be that it’s a three billion‑dollar industry, the outdoor and recreation industry in Maine.
What kind of jobs are out there? How many jobs are there now? What are the needs in Maine? Lauren or Karen, I don’t know if that’s up your alley.
Lauren: We could probably tag team this question. It varies. The Maine Outdoor Brands did a survey of their members last year and came up with some interesting data around what Maine Outdoor Brands members need. Are they able to find what they need in terms of employees?
It varies everything from research, design, and development, to marketing skills. Then also the leading skills, the bringing people outside, the service and experience providers. What we’ve found is we have students who are in our programs who maybe have a clear sense of what they want to do.
Maybe they want to go into commercial guiding when they’re done. Maybe they want to go into conservation law enforcement when they get out of our programs. Maybe they’re not sure, but they know that they want the outdoors to be part of their lives and, ideally, part of their professions.
We see students graduating and going into fields where they can explore that. I know I have students right now working in wilderness therapy, as an example. One particular student I have in mind did the outdoor leadership minor and a psychology major. She took both of those programs of study and blended it into a career in wilderness therapy.
It really runs the gamut from service and experience providers in other commercial, non‑profit or educational settings, and then more business orientation with some of the other outdoor‑oriented businesses, products, marketing, etc. Karen, feel free to add. [laughs]
Karen: I’ll piggyback a little bit on the wilderness therapy. That is definitely a growing segment and a real need, especially as it’s been shown that nature is such a way that people can heal, particularly veterans with PTSD and so on. That’s a real growing segment.
In the last couple of years, we’ve established a wilderness therapy minor to try and address some of those needs, where it’s a marriage between our psychology in community studies program and our outdoor recreation and leadership program.
Then the other side of that is there’s the people who are doing the leading and the commercial guiding, and then there’s the people who are managing the lands that people are doing the recreation on.
That’s another job need is we have a lot of land trusts in Maine, and so there’s positions where we need people, their job is being the stewardship director of a land trust or so on or an outreach coordinator for a land trust that helps fill in some of those needs of, “We’ve got this land, and we have to maintain it so that people can use it.”
These are the people behind the scenes who are helping to make the plans and manage the plans and monitor the lands and make sure that the resources stay in a condition that we want them to be in so people have enjoyable recreational experiences.
Ron: I’m probably the oldest person here by a good bet as looking at you all. I remember gym class as a kid, and for a lot of us, it didn’t include any of these sports, these outdoor recreation opportunities. When and how did that change? That’s part of what K through 12 some of many kids experience when they have physical education, correct?
Lauren: Ron, I have to correct you. Don’t say, gym class. You have to say, physical education class.
Ron: Duly noted.
Lauren: [laughs] UMaine, we have a teaching coaching program that allows students to get certified to be physical education teachers. Yes, outdoor activities and adventure activities are part of our curriculum and we want them to be part of every student in K12’s curriculum.
In different corners of the state, incorporating outdoor activities into PE has been around for quite a while, but it’s becoming more common and becoming much more widespread. This is what my research focuses on and what my dissertation is [laughs] going to be on. I could talk your ear off about this. I’ll try not to do that.
I will say that there’s now so much research that demonstrates how important outdoor activities are for a mental and emotional well‑being, but as well as physical well‑being. Children move more when they’re outside and they move more vigorously when they’re outside.
In educational era, where time is of the essence and PE is often not given the time it deserves, outdoor activities provide a good bang for the buck because kids are moving more when they’re doing those activities. Also, we have this emphasis now on lifetime participation in physical activity. Doing things in physical education class, that one will be able to do forever.
Activities like paddling, snowshoeing, cross‑country skiing are things that people can do their whole lives, which is not always true for some of the more traditional field and team sports. Nothing against those activities, but typically, we do not see adults doing pickup football games. [laughs]
Ron: That would result in a lot of injuries, I’m betting. Ryder, maybe you can add to this a little bit given the age of the kids that you deal with. We hear a lot about something called nature‑deficit disorder. Kids are not basically…What Lauren talked about, they’re not getting outside as much as they should. Does this effort that you guys are undertaking help address that a bit?
Ryder: Absolutely. First of all, the whole topic of nature‑deficit disorder came from an author named Richard Louv who published his book “Last Child in the Woods” in 2005. I read his book shortly after my first daughter was born in 2006.
Your question’s personally meaningful to me because it set me on a pathway of getting serious about dedicating my professional life and my career to addressing that issue. Essentially, what he says in the book is that connection to the outdoors and to nature is not nice to have. It’s a necessity for physical and emotional health and wellness.
There’s a lot of research at this point following the book. There was a vast array of research, and the literature is very clear and strong. Pointing to the notion that Louv was right. Louv was a journalist, not a scientist nor a researcher.
He felt free to coin this term and create this international movement around addressing this issue that kids are not getting connected to the natural world in ways that they were just a couple of generations ago. It’s, on one hand, causing a lot of problems.
On the other hand, if we look at it as an opportunity, what we do in 4‑H camp, what many of Lauren’s and Karen’s students end up doing when they’re in the classroom or working for nonprofit outdoor education organizations or connecting families to the outdoors as guides, is helping to address that, helping to boost the health and wellness of our society.
Ron: Chris, maybe you see this and experience this a little bit. Many kids today are buried in their phones and indoors. Kids don’t even watch TV anymore, which blows my mind. They’re watching YouTube or looking at their phones.
Everybody’s going to have a curved neck before too long, the way things are going. When kids are able to put the phone down and get out there, how do you see them respond to that?
Chris: This is a little bit of a contentious topic in the outdoors. There’s some debate as to what is the better option. Do we allow them to have phones during their experiences and to help alleviate anxiety, or do we remove them from their devices so that they can participate completely in the experience? I personally am of the fan of not having technology in our programs.
That’s the stance that we take here at Maine Bound. What we hear from our students in our outdoor orientation program, Black Bear Bound is that whether or not they were excited to give up their phone at the start of the experience, by the end of the experience, they found it incredibly liberating to be disconnected from their phone.
It reduces their anxiety because they’re not constantly checking things and looking for their next notification. That is freeing for them, and they take that back and say, “I’m going to do these phone detoxes more often. This is really a positive thing for me.” That’s what I hear most often from our participants.
Ron: Maybe Karen and Lauren, you can fill this one. Can you give us maybe a thumbnail of the classes and the opportunities? You mentioned wilderness therapy. What are some of the classes? Not only are you learning a skill, but you’re learning to be a leader which works in the outdoors and works in many phases of life. Is that the underlying goal of a lot of this?
Karen: I would say that communication skills are pretty much at the forefront of our field and obviously are such a huge part of leadership that can transfer to any job or any area of life that somebody is experiencing. Communication skills are definitely, I know, at the forefront of our program.
Then we’ve got a lot of other…The leadership there’s what we consider the hard skills of the leadership of learning of how to actually do the activities and perform the activities and then teach those activities.
Then there’s the softer side. They sometimes term the soft skills of facilitation, where you learn how to work well with a group and lead a group through doing their best to reach a goal or accomplish a task. Lauren, you can jump in here, but I think that those are two of the strong focuses in at least my program here at Machias, and also at yours in Orono.
Ron: Lauren, maybe you could riff on that. What kinds of classes? You’re trying to basically accomplish the same thing that Karen just talked about.
Lauren: Obviously, those same skills are important in our courses and important for our students to demonstrate. I would add on to that the importance of being able to both give and receive feedback. That becomes a really important part of all of our courses, and also in our co‑curricular programs as well.
This idea of giving feedback both to participants and also maybe to co‑leaders, and receiving feedback about how we performed as facilitators and leaders and this is an important life skill. This isn’t just about being outdoors, but it’s about in our other lives, in our professions, in our school, in our relationships with friends and family.
Being able to give and receive feedback is really, really important. I can chat briefly about some of our courses. Karen will probably want to follow up as well. In our core outdoor leadership courses, we have two introductory courses.
One is introduction to facilitation and leadership that gives a lot of the theories and foundations of outdoor leadership and ends with a weekend overnight backcountry trip, which is this semester. It’s happening this weekend, which is very exciting.
We also have an introductory course that focuses on a lot of doing. A lot of what sometimes is referred to as hard skills that Karen was talking about. We are doing the things. We are belaying, we are climbing, we are cross country skiing, we’re snowshoeing, etc.
Then we have some of our higher‑level courses. We have wilderness first responder, which is also a course that Karen’s program offers, and is an industry‑standard certification that anyone hoping to work outdoors ideally should have.
We have a paddling‑specific course. When we set about designing our program of study, we realize that paddling in Maine in a regular academic semester can be a little bit challenging. We could start in the fall and feel pretty good about it and then it gets real cold real fast. In spring, of course, spring semester is a misnomer. It’s really winter semester, so very challenging.
We offer a paddling‑specific course in May that allows us to capture that spring water and slightly warmer water temperatures, although still chilly. Then our program ends with a field experience course that Ryder and Chris teach for us, which is wonderful.
A two‑week intensive field experience course, where students are taking on leadership roles related to expeditions and instruction. Another course that we teach that I love and is super accessible, it’s the only online course we have, is ethics and social justice in outdoor leadership.
This course, we decided right from the beginning, needed to be part of the curriculum. We thought about, should it be part of every course or do we want a standalone course? In the end, we decided we wanted a standalone course to give this topic the credit that it deserves. That’s also a fun course for us.
Ron: We’re talking with Lauren and Karen about students that have decided to pursue this for their academic careers. You’re dealing with a bit of a younger cohort of kids. Maybe you could talk about the programs. How that feeds into potentially a kid coming out of high school and deciding to pursue outdoor leadership as a career.
Ryder: Absolutely. We’re working with youth ages roughly 7 through 17 in our 4‑H camp programs, as well as our school‑based K‑12 programs in the school year. We also hire a tremendous number of staff seasonally, particularly in the summer. Let’s say 2019 numbers. We hired 150 seasonal staff across the 4‑H centers.
I’m seeing it at both ends. I’m seeing young professionals coming out of universities who are working in the field in some cases, for the first time. In other cases, they’re applying for year‑round jobs with us and leadership roles, etc. developing these pathways through, first of all, 4‑H camp experiences.
Create that spark and develop that passion for the outdoors for a young person to see themselves in those teaching and leadership roles in the future is really, really important. Another piece we haven’t discussed at all is micro‑credentialing. We have developed through 4‑H and the University of Maine system. We have developed the first youth digital badge in outdoor leadership.
We’ve started to administer that digital badge. It has a set of criteria, levels one through three that a young person can aspire to meet. That’s one more credential, one more step in the pathway towards a degree and a career in this field.
Ron: For Lauren and Chris here in Orono, and Karen, Machias, right on campus here, on both campuses, there are plenty of places to do these kinds of things. Maybe you could talk about the facilities or the opportunities that are right outside the doors here of the campus in Orono and Machias. You can have your classes and step right out and go right to town, right, Lauren?
Lauren: We can. We have trails. We have the river that we can access right from campus. I’ll let Chris talk a little bit about the Maine Bound facility specifically because we have this amazing resource through Maine Bound.
Chris: Lauren mentioned the trails. We have 150 miles of trails here when you count the greater Bangor area. I am constantly astonished by that number. There’s a map that was published recently that details all these trails. From mountain biking, to cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, walking. Whatever it is, there’s so much there.
Yeah, we have these beautiful rivers. We also have climbing areas that are only down the road in Clifton, 25 or 30 minutes away, which is a resource that not many colleges have the privilege to be so close to. Right here on campus Maine Bound has a climbing gym. It’s a small gym in our barn that serves over 12,000 students a year.
We have a lot of people coming in and out. We also have this beautiful challenge course that is tucked into the trails behind the recreation center here. Both of those definitely serve the co‑curricular program and outdoor leadership in a big way.
Ron: Karen, you’re right in the middle of all kinds of great places to explore down there in Machias.
Karen: Absolutely. Even right on our campus, I’m looking outside at the trail that we have that’s on our campus. Part of our projects with the students is working on developing and maintaining those trails.
Just last hour, I was out with the class doing some trail measurements and looking at trail width and trail slope. It’s great because we don’t even have to leave the campus. We’re right there. Down the road, we’ve got access to tidal waters. Right in town, there’s a boat launch. We can access tidal waters to go canoeing or kayaking.
We’ve got the Gold Coast super nearby, which is fantastic for hiking. We’ve got so many rivers and lakes that it’s like, “Which one am I going to take my class to today to go paddling?” It’s a lovely problem to have when you’re trying to decide which one you want to go to and you’re having a hard time making up your mind because they’re all so nice. [laughs]
Ron: Good problem to have, for sure. Finally, as we wrap up here, we ask this at the end of a lot of podcasts where we talk to folks. If you project out 5 or 10 years, where is all this going to lead? What do hope to see? What do you think you’ll see as this develops and moves into the future? Let’s start with Ryder.
Ryder: Not to contradict you, Ron, [laughs] but I just got to tag Lauren to maybe lead off on that. Just because Lauren has been super articulate in a vision for the state and the UMaine system in this. I’ll be happy to riff off of her.
Lauren: What do I envision and hope for the future? I hope for the future that every child growing up in Maine has access to meaningful outdoor experiences throughout their childhood and lives and that they have skilled and passionate adult leaders to bring them outdoors.
In order for that vision to come true, I think that’s where we all come in at the University of Maine and the University of Maine system. We have the opportunity to train our next guides, leaders, and educators that will be getting those kids, and parents, too, [laughs] that will be getting those kids outside.
There’s no one way to do that but this mix of co‑curricular opportunities, academic opportunities, as well as opportunities throughout the lifetime from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. These are all ways that we can help shape that future for Maine. I’m sure that my colleagues have some other things to add on to that.
Karen: [inaudible 37:50] to add in that we’re also helping kids and students develop those skills to not only how to do these activities, but how to do them in a way that has a minimum impact on the natural resources so that these natural resources remain in the condition that we want them to stay in.
We can continue to be this wonderful place that everyone wants to come and visit in the summer. We can continue to get all of these health and wellness benefits that being outside affords us.
Ron: Ryder, what do you think all these efforts? Where do you hope and think they will lead?
Ryder: I’m going to back up even a little bit and say 40 years ago, Tanglewood 4‑H Camp was founded on the premise and with the mission that outdoor experiences and connection to the incredible natural beauty that Maine has to offer should not be solely for the children and families of the privileged. They should be for all Maine youth.
Fast forward 40 years later, we now have a robust network of 4‑H camps and then expand that outward to include all of these folks and all the other programs at the other UMaine system campuses that Lauren mentioned. We have the infrastructure and the people and the team in place now to fulfill that vision that Lauren just laid out.
Ron: Chris, we give you the final word.
Chris: I am obviously biased. I truly believe that outdoor education is this magical thing. It’s hard for people to understand how developmental it really is. Maine Bound is part of student life. We’re housed under Student Life and Campus Recreation. We take that developmental piece to heart.
We know that the students that are participating in our programs, UMaine outdoor recreation opportunities are having these life‑changing experiences. They know that after the experience that they have on an outdoor orientation program or in a class that is field‑based, they’re coming out slightly different person.
They can’t quite put their finger on it. That’s why we call it magic because it truly is. Our dream is to have everyone experience that, to have everyone have that opportunity, for everyone to know how special this is, know‑how transformative it can be in people’s lives.
Ron: After talking to you all, I want to get outdoors right now. Let’s hope we can all do that very soon. Thank you all for sharing your stories with us.
Lauren: Thank you.
Karen: Thanks so much, Ron.
Ron: Thanks for joining us. To find out more about the program at UMaine, head to the College of Education and Human Development page at umaine.edu. For info on the program at UMaine Machias, head to machias.edu/tourism.
To learn more about Cooperative Extension’s 4‑H summer camps for kids, go to extension.umaine.edu/4H/camps. “Maine Question” can be found on Apple and Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud, UMaine’s Facebook and YouTube pages, and now on Amazon Music and Audible. Get in touch with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Ron Lisnet. We’ll catch you next time on The Maine Question.