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Student Engagement: When Halloween is an outdoor adventure

Since COVID NIU Outdoor Adventures has been drawing outside the lines of what one might expect for outdoor programming. While normal events would be guiding groups hiking, caving, or rock climbing, the idea to first host a Halloween event came in 2020.

We wanted to do something fun and the Trick or Treat Hunt was so well received, we offered it again in 2021. This year we wanted to bring a more outdoor feel and combined the idea with another new program series that started out of the pandemic, our on-campus campfire.

The Halloween Campfire was made special with free hot drinks and s’mores. Students showed up in groups throughout the night to hang around the fire and hike the Haunted Trail we set up through Eco Woods.

As the details came together it ended up being an awesome event. The hot drinks were a hit with special toppings of flavored whip creams, swirls of chocolate and caramel, along with spices and sprinkles.

The OA staff hid in the woods to make the scavenger hunt memorable and students discovered where the most haunted place in DeKalb is. We counted an attendance of 137 students and most were dressed in impressive costumes.

What I learned from seeing such a great turnout at this event as well as our Week of Welcome Campfire, is there is a need for student events on campus. I personally love seeing the connection to the spirit of the day. This started in 2015 when we first hosted an Earth Day clean up event on Earth Day, April 22. The eight years we hosted Clean the Kish was also centered around National Public Lands Day.

I feel it is important to build upon these connections to establish traditions. Traditions are important for NIU and something our small program cares a lot about but it can also feel unsustainable. Looking ahead, I not sure these types of events can continue.

We would love to work with dedicated partnerships, others who want to bring their own ideas, and who share the passion we have for community and student engagement. If you know of any organizations or if you enjoy our events and want to volunteer, please reach out!

For the meantime though, we don't mind making memories and Halloween being an outdoor adventure.


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