Hilary Sayle's close quarters with Outdoor Recreation

Faculty of Applied Health Sciences

Hilary Sayle's close quarters with Outdoor Recreation

When reflecting on my experiences in the Outdoor Recreation Program at Brock University, I realize the incredible opportunities that I have been provided with.

I feel that it is important to acknowledge that a lot of the opportunities I’ve received is from working hard as a student, the effective teaching practices and the encouraging community established by the professors and other students in the Outdoor Recreation program, which has helped to set high standards for graduates of the program.

I believe the most progressive part of this program is that regardless of your previous experience in the outdoor recreation field, Brock welcomes and invites you to be challenged and build on skills, at whatever level they may be.

As an undergraduate, the first and second year of the program helped me to establish the foundations of this field, with a strong focus on leisure theories as well as practical experiences in wilderness settings.

In my third year, the content of the courses became more specific, I was exposed to an array of literature and experiences from my professors. Topics explored ecological literacy, aboriginal issues and connections to nature, adventure programming, risk management and a focus on outdoor recreation in our own back yards.

Between third and fourth year, with the encouragement and support of my professors, I spent the summer working as an intern at an outdoor adventure therapy center in Palmer Rapids, ON. During this internship I was pushed physically, mentally and emotionally working on my technical skills and helping to facilitate outdoor activities with unique populations, such as white water rafting with adults with acquired brain injuries.

When I entered my fourth year at Brock, many of the courses discussed relevant subject matter that helped connect the material to my summer experiences in the field. Brock’s vision to integrate theory and practice was truly an effective teaching approach. The program helped to shape my career goals, focus on professionalism in this field and gain some practical and relevant experiences in the world of Outdoor Recreation.

I also worked as a Teaching Assistant for a second year Recreation & Leisure Studies course: Outdoor Recreation Theory and Practices in my fourth year. The course was designed to provide field experiences that are integrated with theory and a focus on building fundamental technical skills that students continue to build upon throughout their degree. The experience of being a Teaching Assistant at Brock gives opportunity to develop teaching skills.

I’ve now worked for several companies including ALIVE Outdoors, and the Tim Horton Children's Foundation Youth Leadership Program guiding canoe trips and working outdoor education programs in Ontario's beautiful northern backyard.

Most recently in the summer 2010 I worked in Eastern Manitoba, researching and scouting canoe and hiking routes for the soon-to-be-built new Youth Leadership Program Wilderness Base for the Tim Horton Children's Foundation.

From my experiences I developed a strong curiosity about how and what young people learn as a result of participation on wilderness trips. One part of this curiosity is a pursuit to understand the “Now What?” component of wilderness trips, alongside a curiosity to understand other aspects of my experiences as a wilderness trip leader and participants’ experiences. Do they transfer their learning into other aspects of their lives? With this question, I decided to return to Brock in 2009 to pursue a Masters of Arts in Applied Health Sciences, conducting a qualitative multi-case study with exploring the transference of wilderness trip experiences to the everyday lives of young people. Additionally, being a graduate student has opened even more doors to lead various types of trips and be involved through various facets of the Outdoor Recreation program.

My future aspirations are to continue my translating my research interests from theory into practice in this field, effectively working with different wilderness programs transferring long-lasting effects with participants after their wilderness trips in urban settings. Throughout my education and experiences, I have begun to understand that Outdoor Recreation is not just an industry but a movement, and it is my future career goal to pursue work that can help put this theory into action.