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Outdoor education conference named for professor emeritus

Professor emeritus Bert Horwood is the namesake of a new conference celebrating outdoor education. 

When he was 11-years-old, Bert Horwood wouldn’t hesitate to strap on his cross-country skis and head out on his own for a day in the bush. “I never thought anything about it,” he recalls. “My mother would tell me when to be home for dinner.”

It was that spirit of adventure and fearlessness that Professor Horwood always tried to instill in his students at the Faculty of Education. “Right from the beginning, I was a teacher who felt that students had to make meaning out of their own experiences, and not out of second-hand experiences,” he says.

That’s why the professor emeritus was known for taking his students out-of-doors for hands-on learning or “experiential” education. It was an approach to teaching that was relatively new when Professor Horwood became a founding member of the Faculty of Education in 1968. “My contribution was in breaking ground in a field where there was very little disciplined inquiry before that,” he explains.

Born and raised in Pembroke, Ont., Professor Horwood first arrived at Queen’s as a “lost and bewildered” undergraduate in 1950, eventually earning a degree in biology and chemistry. After a stint teaching high school, he returned to Queen’s for a master’s degree in biology. Popular with his peers and students, Professor Horwood has won numerous awards and honours for his work.

Since retiring in 1992, Professor Horwood has paddled five arctic rivers, logged many hours on his cross-country skis, and become a practicing Quaker. He’s also become the namesake for a new annual conference. The first Canadian Student Outdoor Education Conference –also known as The Horwood Conference – takes place at Queen’s in late January.

Professor Horwood says it’s an honour to have his academic contributions celebrated with a conference that allows students to test out their ideas while in the thick of their research, and he’s looking forward to attending the event. “Normally these kinds of honour labels happen when someone is dead,” he laughs. “I’ll try to see that my behaviour doesn’t disgrace the name.”

The Canadian Student Outdoor Education Conference 2013 (The Horwood Conference) takes place January 25-26 at Queen’s University. The conference agenda is available online.