I pulled in to Waterville Valley last Thursday and had to park in the grass in front of the conference center because there were no more spaces left in any of the parking lots. Over 550 educators from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine were in Waterville Valley for the annual conference of NHAHPERD (New Hampshire Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance). From the moment I walked through the front doors, I had to turn sideways and use my manners to get to the registration desk. Everyone was smiling and talking, and treated me with kindness along the way. Although I had no previous contact with this group, I could feel the deep connections and the overwhelming sense of camaraderie filling the air.
My presentation was titled “Don’t forget the Outdoors”. In a time when every school hour is counted and watched very closely, the time students spend outdoors – recess – is decreasing every year. We talked about the importance of outdoor time and how being in a nurturing, outdoor environment can allow groups to come together differently than they can in a classroom. Students express themselves differently outside and are “allowed” to learn differently.
We played with UBUNTU cards from High 5 Adventure Learning Center. The cards have pictures of objects on one side (rubber chicken, can opener, drinking straw, penny). No two cards are the same, but every card has a match. Attendees were asked to buddy-up with different partners by finding the common object on their cards. As partners, they shared what they are already doing in their school to get students outside and what obstacles they meet in being able to do more outdoors. At the end of our hour together, everyone walked away with new program ideas, a new game and new peer relationships.
It was refreshing and energizing to be a part of another professional group’s annual conference. We often get caught up in our own world and forget there are others out there completing different professional goals – still needing friends, food and good conversation.
I ended my day at the Plymouth House of Pizza with summer staff members Eric Toothaker, Chris Becker and Ben Giorgi. We celebrated our own camaraderie over pizza and wings. It was the perfect end to an energizing day.