"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you." - Aldous Huxley

And all it takes is you - whoever you are. You don't need to have had one million experiences, but rather made meaning of one that you are ready to share with us around the proverbial campfire.

ActivatEE is sharing platform designed by the Association for Experiential Education for its members and conference attendees during the International Conference. ActivatEE is a developmental process, both for the speaker and the audience, where we share ideas, test assumptions, and are asked to view a perspective through a different lens. ActivatEE is designed to facilitate the process of creating one’s story, inspiring the use of one’s voice, and launching an idea - all on stage during a conference keynote.

AEE 48th Annual International Conference - November 12 - 14, 2020 - Virtual

2020 ActivatEE Speakers

Caitlin McCormick Small

Caitlin McCormick Small, M.A., M.Ed., is the Executive Director of Project Adventure (PA). Caitlin began her career directing out-of-school time programs in high-needs public schools and developed a passion for supporting the holistic wellness of students, teachers, and school communities. She later became a consultant for the development of comprehensive social-emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools nationwide. She worked for The PEAR Institute of McLean Hospital as a facilitator, data coach, and SEL consultant, and built a team of trainers who partnered with the likes of Boston Public Schools, CityYear, and Playworks. She came to PA as the Director of SEL and was named Executive Director in the middle of the 2020 pandemic. Caitlin studied at Sarah Lawrence College, Bar-Ilan University, UMass Boston, and Tufts University’s Institute for Nonprofit Practice.  

Sanford Tollette

Serving as Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp’s Executive Director for over 45 years, Sanford Tollette has transformed a Camp reserved primarily for underprivileged white boys to a Camp open and dedicated to helping troubled youth of all races and genders. In 1988, he expanded from summer adventure programming to year round programming with the addition of the academic Alternative Classroom Experience (ACE). ACE helps 150 at-risk children each year turn their lives around through an intensive residential educational program. Students practice mastery learning with a certified teacher and are mentored and tutored by AmeriCorps members. Not only do test results show a half grade improvement in math and reading within 4 to 5 weeks, students build skills in problem-solving, crisis management and personal responsibility. Executive Director Tollette has received many awards over the years and in 2012 was recognized by the White House as a Kiwanis International Champion of Change.

Joe Booth

Joe is a lifelong whitewater enthusiast and outdoorsman. He has worked as a kayaking instructor, river guide, safety boater for numerous paddlesports organizations. Through his journey of finding a balanced life free from addiction, Joe has gained insight into the many challenges people face on and off the water. He's active in the outdoor behavioral health industry, using outdoor experiences as a path to healing. Joe has spent the past 20 years studying the fields of motivation, adult learning, peak performance, and behavioral psychology. He used this knowledge reconstruct himself from being a self-proclaimed “dirt-bag” living out of his truck, into a top performer with billion-dollar software companies in Silicon Valley. Joe is recognized as a thought leader in the field of corporate development, training high-performance teams. Joe is the founder of Class Five Mind, a leading recovery platform that combines technology with science-based techniques for overcoming addiction.

Sachi Sakamoto

Sachi Sakamoto is finishing up her undergrad at San Francisco State University with a major in Recreation, Parks and Tourism with an emphasis in Outdoor Recreation. Since finding her place in the outdoors, Sachi strives to introduce the outdoor world to those who have not had the access. In her first year of college, Sachi helped start the first outdoor adventure program at SF State. Since then, she has been working as student manager for the program, leading trips and helping students connect to nature. Sachi’s speech focuses on how outdoor recreation helped her gain confidence in herself and confidence to help others.

Abdul Samad Khan Samad

Abdul Samad Khan (Samad) is the founder & CEO of Youth Impact, an award winning not for profit, having trained 25,000+ youth in Pakistan. Samad, a cancer survivor, who has dedicated his second life to empower youth of the world, has introduced ‘Markhor’, Pakistan’s unique wilderness based youth leadership conference held annually since 2013. He is first Pakistani to graduate from National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), USA, which led him to train youth leaders across the five continents on earth. His leadership class rooms included Kilimanjaro Peak, Langkawi Islands, Maria Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Rocky Mountains and the stunning Himalayas and Karakorum ranges in Pakistan. For more than a decade, Samad has also trained corporate leaders from Pakistan’s top national and multinational companies in the wilderness.

Esther Ayers

Esther is a third year PhD student in Chicano Latino Studies program at Michigan State University. In addition, she is licensed social worker.
Her research interest are understanding mental health specifically with Latinx youth. More specifically Esther is interested in examining empirical research on adventure therapy in community based mental health settings. In 2020, Esther co-authored in Research on Social Work Practice. Also is a co-author that is under revision for Journal of Latinos and Education. In addition, Esther has facilitated mental health workshops at Michigan State University. Also, she has presented her research in courses at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. On Esthers spare time, she enjoys spending time with her familia both immediate and extended family, cooking, listening to music, and embracing nature by going for walks. Or taking a ride with my partner on a tandem bike.



Drafting your keynote:

  • This platform invites you, the speaker, to share a story or idea through the use of voice, during a 7-9 minute mini-keynote to the global audience of the International Conference.
  • Think of an instant in time where you had an experience that became a profound teaching moment for you, which truly influenced or altered your way of thinking or being. Are you able and willing to share that message with others?
  •  Now visualize how you would want to share that story in terms of keynote address. What did you hear, see, notice, and experience in that moment that had immediate impact or had influence years down the road?  Is there a method in your delivery that helps convey your message?
  • Answer the three questions:
  •    Whatwhat is your story? what happened?
  •    So what? Why is it important or developmental to you? What meaning did you take from it?
  •    Now what? How have you moved forward or how do you plan to use this going forward? What is the transformation? How are you changed?


Your initial submission will likely not be your exact final presentation. This is just the first step in a number of iterations that you and your presentation will go through before delivering the final presentation. 

Please note that these presentations are to be an experience relevant to your perspective. You can certainly use bits of research to support your message, but this not to be a research paper or a business promotion. We will really push all presenters to constantly evaluate their message, knowing we want to channel a lesson learned to activate the minds of those in the audience.  

People love visuals! While it is certainly not a requirement, we strongly encourage you to accompany your presentation with some sort of visual representation whether it be a slide show, video or whatever other creative ideas you have!

The Process:

  • Draft your ActivatEE presentation and submit by the deadline.
  • A team will review the submissions and send out acceptance notices.
  • You will be asked to set up at least two phone calls/or Skype sessions in September with a committee member to discuss your presentation. These sessions are designed to provide feedback and suggestions regarding the delivery of the presentations.


2019 AORE-AEE Conference ActivatEE Speakers

Listen Now!


(*From left to right)

Karen Warren (she/her pronouns) recently retired after 36 years teaching and leading trips at Hampshire College. She has taught courses in experiential education, outdoor leadership, wilderness studies, and social justice. Karen has written and spoken extensively on social justice issues in outdoor experiential education. Karen's 2019 speech was centered around her own journey of being a woman in the outdoor education field and the wisdom she’s gained as a lifelong career as an outdoor educator to deconstruct the master narrative.


Deidra Goodwin helps people find their personal definition of "outdoorsy" while exploring all of the different ways that can look. This is why Deidra is an AORE member, and AEE member and an Appalachian Trail Conservancy Next Generation Advisory Council Member. She is self acceptingly awkward, an incredibly amateur photographer with two in amused but talented dog models. Professionally, she is the Challenge Course Graduate Assistant at Western Kentucky University. Deidra's 2019 speech focused on how outdoor education has helped her cope with her perfectionism.


Rachel Hunsell is the Expeditions Coordinator for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Her work entails facilitating primitive, backcountry programs, providing compassionate peer to peer emotional support for families grieving the loss of a fallen service member. Rachel's 2019 speech was centered around her brother’s death during his military service and her healing through becoming an expedition coordinator on Mt. Kilimanjaro for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.   


Jeff Baierlein is the Director of Viristar, providing training and consulting services to experiential and outdoor education organizations worldwide. Jeff is an AEE accreditation reviewer and a past member of the AEE Board of Directors. He is previously the Executive Director of the AEE-Accredited Boojum Institute for Experiential Education, and the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center. Jeff's 2019 speech focused on how the outdoor center where he worked burned to the ground in the CA fires, and how he and a group of resilient outdoor, experiential educators came together to rebuild the organization and his team.


Sam Bragg obtained her BA degree in International Studies from Gallaudet University, and then went on to get her Master’s in Outdoor Leadership from Saybrook University and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Sam has always been passionate about the outdoors since a young age, especially coming from a family with strong roots in agriculture and the outdoors in the great woods of Maine. Sam has discovered many ways to continue her passion and love for the outdoors by working at different local farms, camps and conservation programs. Sam is eager to continue participating in the current dialogue on how to create a diverse and inclusive environment for outdoor programs throughout the nation. Samantha's 2019 speech focused on her experiences being deaf in the outdoors and how overcoming bias and enhancing inclusion can benefit everyone. 


Michelle Pagano is currently a Senior Instructor for REI Co-op Experiences where she is responsible for training, teaching, and developing outdoor programs for the Upper Midwest Region. Michelle began her work within the outdoors at Texas Woman’s University where she worked with students to rethink and redefine the outdoors. Most of all, what she hopes her work to always belong to is the belief that the outdoors is a place for everyone. Michelle's 2019 speech was centered around her mother's immigration story from Colombia and its parallels with her through-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, to remind us that the outdoors should be a place that everyone belongs. 


Listen to the 2019 Speakers Now on our YouTube Channel!


For more information, visit our blog post: What is ActivatEEGet ready to inspire your peers!

 Here are some past presentation examples to get the juices flowing…