A Sense of Hope: How and Why Outdoor Educators Need to Develop their Cultural and Social Justice Competencies

Mary Breunig

Mary Breunig’s keynote address draws on her extensive practice and research on cultural competency.  Mary will help us understand what cultural competency is, why outdoor educators need to be culturally competent, and the ways in which cultural competency can be developed through a careful examination of our attitudes, awareness, knowledge and skills. Mary will place particular focus on the ways in which some commonly used outdoor education practices, such as making ‘dream catchers,’ have been co-opted from indigenous traditions and have not been used in a manner that is culturally appropriate or that honour indigenous people.   By providing concrete examples to bring the theory alive, Mary will help conference delegates to understand their cultural and social justice competencies and deficits.  She will provide hands-on practical tools that delegates can apply to develop their competencies.  Delegate will be able to reflect on their own practice in light of Mary’s provocative talk and apply the ideas to their own leadership practice.  Mary’s talk will leave us with a sense of hopefulness about the possibilities for the ways in which outdoor education can contribute to a more just world.


Mary Breunig is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Brock University and the Director of the Brock University Social Justice and Equity Studies Program. She has worked in the field(s) of experiential education for over 25 years and is currently past-president of the Association for Experiential Education.

Her research interests include outdoor and environmental education within the K-12 schools (Ontario), experiential education and social justice; critical pedagogy and Freirean praxis both in and out of the classroom; wilderness trips and psychological sense of community. She is both an outdoor enthusiast and an urban flannel.

Recent Graduates have studied Exploring the Ecological Self, Migrant Farm Workers in Niagara, Organizational Change in Summer Camps, Cultivating the Foundations of Social Justice in Outdoor Programs, Exploring Metis Ancestry through Auto-Ethnography, Outdoor, Experiential Education in K-12 Yukon Schools, The Effects of Wilderness Trips on Young People living with Diabetes, among others.

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