For the third time in as many years, the Association for Experiential Education’s (AEE) Accreditation Council recently held its mid-year meeting here at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. The association, which was founded in the summer of 1977 right here in Colorado, has become the leading accrediting body for organizations that utilize adventure-based experiential education.
AEE’s accreditation standards, which were first proposed in the early 1990s, are now expressed in six distinct areas:
- Philosophical, Educational, and Ethical Principles
- Program Governance
- Program Management, Operations, and Oversight
- Technical Activities – Land
- Technical Activities – Water
- Non-Technical Activities
Since February of 1995 — when the Accreditation Council awarded the organization’s first seals of approval to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Project Adventure — AEE’s highly sought-after accreditation has become the standard by which all adventure-based programs are judged.
During the three-and-a-half-day meeting, which took place from May 31 to June 3 in our on-campus Professional Development Center, council members covered a number of topics, including:
- Reviewing of Annual Reports: All AEE-accredited organizations —there were 55 as of the end of May — are required to submit an annual narrative report to the Accreditation Council that outlines their organization’s current compliance with AEE standards, as well as an acknowledgement of significant changes or events that occurred during the period — typically the past 12 months.
- Program Evaluations for New Accreditation: An accreditation application must be completed for a program, followed by submission of a self-assessment study to the council. In addition, the program’s facilities, policies and guidelines, and operations are reviewed during an in-depth site visit before being considered for accreditation. At last weekend’s meeting, four programs were voted on for reaccreditation, while one new program was considered for receiving a first-time seal of approval from the council.
- Accrediting International Organizations: Over the last few years, AEE has received an increasing number of inquiries for accreditation from organizations located outside of North America. The first two international organizations to receive AEE accreditation were Outward Bound Hong Kong in the fall of 2011, followed by the Chadwick International in South Korea in January of this year. And following the council’s mid-year meeting here at Eagle Rock, Australia-based Outdoor Education Group (OEG) is just the third non-North American adventure-based organization to receive accreditation through AEE. If you’re unfamiliar with OEG, check them out online. They’re just as pervasive in the “land down under” as NOLS and Outward Bound are here in the U.S.
In addition to the programs referenced above, the 14-member Accreditation Council discussed edits to the Manual of Accreditation Standards for Adventure Programs, as well for the handbook that guides the council’s own work — the Accreditation Council Handbook (PDF).
If all goes according to plan, AEE expects to have nearly 70 programs accredited by the end of 2019, and double that number within the next 10 years.
As for Eagle Rock, when it comes to academics and operations, we work hard to retain and maintain three important accreditations, and as you’ll see, AEE’s is one of them (which we first received in the spring of 2005):
- Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS): Standards that reflect common principles and practices that have sustained American independent schools for decades.
- AdvancED: Standards that have been shown to improve the quality of learning experiences for every student.
- Association for Experiential Education (AEE): Standards that demonstrate an extremely high commitment to quality and safety, professionalism, and an allocation of resources toward continued excellence and improvement.
Curious to learn more about our accreditations? Read Eagle Rock Holds a Trio of Accreditations. For more information about all of the programs AEE has accredited, see the AEE Accredited Programs list on the AEE website.