AND so begins my summary and memories of this great professional and personal opportunity....
I am luck enough to be attending the international annual conference for the association for challenge course technology for the second time. Many of the things I learned last year rocked my world - and I have high hopes for this year as well. Herein lies my efforts to process and reflect.
Today I attended a course called The Art & Science of Experiential Learning. The teachers for this class were clearly very well versed and experienced in their field. They practiced what they preached and provided us (the participants) with windows and resources to better learn by our own experiences. There will be a long bibliography to come and much research to do. One of them has my dream job - the experiential education coordinator for her county.
One of the VERY exciting things about experiential education is that "brain-based learning" research continues to "suggest" (it is considered too young a science to "prove") that it is a more effective learning/ teaching model than traditional education. Specifically we see that the brain accesses information through multiple pathways - meaning that many or all of the senses are involved in getting information to the brain at any given moment - we remember things by their sight, sound, feel, taste, and emotional context all at the same time. Actually experiencing something will make it more memorable. Here are the key ideas I picked up from her vast experience:
Formative assessments - checking for understanding. By asking kids to participate in a game about academic content we can see by their behavior (how well they play the game) if they have understanding. And by asking them to play a game with the academic content, we make it more memorable.
Primacy recency effect - book-ending. We have seen the when presented a list, people remember the 1st & last things on the list. It is important to keep that in mind not only with content, but with format - that by introducing a format (metaphor discussion, pairing to share, etc.) we give the student a higher chance of success & better chance of information retention because we trigger this phenomenon, and we take away (lessen) the stress of dealing with new/ novel activities (allow them to focus on content, not format).
There are LOTS of ways to incorporate academic content in to experiential learning. While I know that instinctively, and have even put some thought into how that could be done, the instructor's concrete examples have really opened my mind to not only how to do it, but how to convince more traditional educators that it can be done, and is important.
Discussion with other participants also drove home for me that some people still see the educational facet of challenge course activities as less relevant. It was a worthwhile conversation to me because the gentleman honestly spoke f how they use team building as a money-making venture to draw groups to their facility for other activities. It made me realize that even though I work for a "non-profit", I am still working for a "break-even" - so I need to be thinking about drawing groups to our facility so that we can grow our audience.
The other instructor spoke about laughter a LOT - particularly about how it effects the brain. It makes us better receptive to learning. What is important about his is that you have the choice to laugh - can even make your self laugh. SO when you choose to laugh, you make the event more memorable by associating an emotional response to it... and you can choose to make a it a positive memory or a negative one.
Then we saw a speaker about 6 word memoirs. While much of what he had to say was only loosely tied to what the ACCT does, he did make several good points & inspired several good ideas. The biggest point may be about buy-in - that people WANT to share and this provides a manageable format. This may be very effective for collecting tangible learning outcomes, and I will probably use it in some way to build community at the pool with our customers.
It is also very relevant to making mission statements. He asked us "why do you do what you do?" Here are the statements I came up with:
Daily adventure grows strength of heart.
Growing strength through adventure and play.
Living adventurously is my personal therapy.
Living Adventure Therapy every single day!
I also discovered that I had already used this model to describe our staff relationships at the pool...
Heart felt, with a little feeling up... ;)
(Just to let you know - this was made FACETIOUSLY. I will NOT tolerate my staff being made to feel demeaned or devalued by inappropriate sexual advances! There is a *possibility* that we play with those types of verbiage since it is a staff of young adults in a pool, which is generally less dressed than even Walmart...)