2e Tuesday: Experiential Learning


I think most kids would rather learn something by actively doing it rather than passively reading about it, but for the Out of The Box Thinker, this is imperative. Essential. Necessary.

Kids with incredible strengths in one area, offset by incredible weaknesses in another area, deal with a high level of frustration and defeatism. They will work 10 times as hard trying to remember a spelling list, only to do 10 times as badly on it compared to everyone else. They will study 100 times as hard to memorize facts for a test, only to do 100 times as poorly as other kids who casually talk about it being ‘easy’. These kids are constantly running on the threshold of their limits, no matter how much it looks like they are just ‘blowing stuff off’ or ‘being lazy’ or ‘not trying hard enough’. As parents and teachers, our frustration comes from knowing the high abilities of these bright, creative, curious kids and watching them fall well short of that. As 2e kids, their frustration comes from knowing what they want or have to do, and watching themselves fall well short of that in spite of their effort.

As a matter of necessity, these kids begin prioritizing and allocating their memory/performance reserves. The things that have no relevance in their lives are typically put on the backburner. The things that tax an already overloaded system are put on the backburner. If a kid has visual strengths, but poor auditory processing, that kid will quickly lose interest in someone telling him about something in favor for something he can see. If I tell my kids to learn something because I want them too, I’m wasting my breath. If I involve my kids by peaking their interests and letting them participate in the experience, then I hardly have to encourage them at all–they’re already ready and willing to learn.

Winston Churchill, who was dyslexic and who failed 8th grade, channelled the attitude of my kids and wrote: “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”

This quote is the catch 22 that my homeschooling days revolve around…in order for my kids to learn, they already have to know it. At first I had no idea how this could even be possible, but now that I’ve seen them in action, it’s clear that I need to open the world up to them. The more they experience, the more they connect, and the more they learn. Is this linear and orderly? No. Is it standardizable or quantitative? Certainly not!! Does it take 03458034958304958 percent more effort on the part of the longsuffering educator (ie., me?)? Uh, yeah! But these kids put so much effort into everything they do, and they deserve the same.

Experiential learning can be a highly effective educational method. It engages the learner at a more personal level by addressing the needs and wants of the individual. Experiential learning requires qualities such as self-initiative and self-evaluation.

Two things that Out of the Box Thinkers are really good at.

Experiential learning is the glue that holds their learning in place. It happens on a walk around the neighborhood or a trip across country. It’s taking care of a pet and going to the zoo. It’s participating in something like 4H or other summer camps. It’s talking to someone that does something they admire, or finding a mentor to guide them. It’s making science experiments in the kitchen or watching birds by a creek.

Remember the games we use to play when we were kids? Simple games, such as hopscotch, can teach many valuable academic and social skills, like team management, communication, and leadership. The reason why games are popular as experiential learning techniques is because of the “fun factor” – learning through fun helps the learner to retain the lessons for a longer period.
Most educators understand the important role experience plays in the learning process. A fun learning environment, with plenty of laughter and respect for the learner’s abilities, also fosters an effective experiential learning environment. It is vital that the individual is encouraged to directly involve themselves in the experience, in order that they gain a better understanding of the new knowledge and retain the information for a longer time. As stated by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, “[t]ell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.”

In short, it’s living, mindfully.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”–John Muir

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