“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” Experiential Education by John Dewey
The impact of the pandemic has been experienced differently across all parts of our society. It’s easy to only think of struggling adult population but it would be remiss to think that our younger generations have not lost out also. As they progress through their formative years, the youth encounter profoundly lasting experiences each year of their schooling. However, the lost learning of experiential education greatly reduces opportunities for real change to occur within our students. In this article, we discuss the benefits of experiential education and how to recreate it in place of lost experiences.
Outdoor education creates scenarios that force students to exercise a different set of skills in order to persevere and succeed. The adaptable setting allows students to engage the learning opportunity on their terms and explore their learning style with the social safety of a facilitator. The benefits of experiential education are listed below:
As our children grow older they are growing in multiple different ways; physically, relationally, mentally, socially and emotionally. Therefore, experiential education gives them the chance to learn outside of their normal settings and comfort zones where they might have established social mechanisms. Furthermore, outdoor education challenges them to learn in a new way among their peers allowing them to be more expressive, be independent, learn about the environment and take social risks.
Classroom settings can encourage students to rank themselves against their peers to determine how intelligent they think they are. In the outdoor experiential setting there is no established hierarchy as most or all students are embracing the adventures for the first time. The removal of this perception allows for the students to experience learning without preconceived ideas of their abilities in light of others. Students are allowed to express and surprise themselves without the hesitation of social rankings creating the arena for them to thrive and, as a result, surpass their own expectations.
Outside facilitators have the benefit of not knowing student’s social circles and preferred friend groupings. Using this to their advantage, they will often create diverse teams tasked with overcoming challenges. The benefits of this are twofold; Students will practice teamwork, collaborative problem solving and delegation in order to overcome the problems.
From an interpersonal standpoint, it allows students the opportunity to work with people they may not typically socialize with. Doing so helps them see the individuals they are working with and get to know them better breaking down any social barriers.
Students can sometimes believe that the teacher is an authority in the power dynamic, rather than a living breathing human. However, in the outdoor, experiential setting, teachers can behave more socially as they are not the primary educator. A good facilitator is also there to guide the students through interesting, exciting tasks taking attention away from the teacher. With less focus on the ‘needing students to learn’ dynamic, the teacher will become a source of encouragement and support. Overnight camps also allow the students to interact with their teachers and facilitators on a social footing. Creating a more social setting eases the power dynamic and authority perceived by many students.
Students are not usually involved in the decision making processes. By excluding them during the process, they sometimes feel their opinions or feelings are not as important as others. In other words, they often feel dictated to and powerless. Simply understanding that they have lost opportunities helps to start the process of recapturing that learning. Keeping the concerned parent or teacher hat on is still necessary of course in not overlooking the need to be responsible, so where is the middle ground?
Safety consciousness is to the very forefront of just about everybody’s minds right now and above all is not something we suggest overlooking. Within a safe parameter, there are many suggestions to help recapture some of the benefits of experiential education. For instance…
By involving a child in a vacation or experiential trip decision, they are given responsibility and authority over their own experiences. This gives a feeling of autonomy, respect and also a window into the effort required to plan things as a family. Moreover, asking them to research things to do for the family boosts awareness and respect of individual needs.
Trying something new probably isn’t new to you or them but doing it together might be. Experiencing something new as a family gives children the opportunity to problem solve as part of the team with you rather than just being given the solution. Trying something new could easily come in the form of a household task, picking up an instrument or going further afield to an outside experience.
As BC begins to reopen, many more options become available to satisfy this need. Furthermore, retreats and adventure experiences are opening with enhanced safety measures. Booking an experience that is further down the line can give children something to look forward to and know they will recapture the lost learning in the hands of professional facilitators with their development in mind.
The rate of development in our youths is nothing short of magic. In conclusion, if you are looking for extra advice or information, please reach out on one of our social platforms!