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Learning by doing

Frankie Kartun

Frankie Kartun is a manager at Educo Africa, which, as part of the world-wide Educo organisation, offers leadership and development through outdoor-based experiential education

Outdoor experiential education seeks to educate the whole person; it offers “hands-on" experience in combination with theoretical knowledge. A shared experience – being under the same sky, facing the same conditions and challenges, learning from observing others that there is a whole range of responses from which to choose in any situation, utilising the resources of others to achieve a common goal, with each person adding their own special magic to the group – all these elements combine to create an unforgettable, holistic experience. An effective adventure-based learning experience involves a cycle of experience, reflection and application. The structured experiences on an outdoor course “as well as those things that happen spontaneously and unpremeditatedly “set the stage for learning. The reviewing process that takes place afterwards helps participants to interpret, understand, and assimilate the learning itself. Transfer occurs when the learning in one situation carries over into another.

Questions such as “Now what?" and “How can what I have learnt here be applied to actual situations at home, school or work?" empower participants to see how their newly acquired skills and knowledge can be used in other contexts. They are able to see how general principles can be formulated from specific experiences; they can then make informed choices and decide on appropriate courses of action.

Practice over theory
Participants learn to make use of the skills and resources of others, as well as to tap into their own often unknown abilities, to make their own unique contribution to the group so that all achieve a common goal. More can be learned by overcoming problems through creative and innovative thinking in the moment, than by being presented with theoretical solutions to theoretical problems.

Thus, an individual's real gain from a course can be measured by how much has been learned and if it can be sustained and applied after the course. It is therefore important that participants learn to link their inner experiences with what is happening in the outer world. A period of solitude can contribute to the assimilation of new experiences through reflection, the formulation of personal goals and a changed worldview.

From the self-respect that participants gain through the process flows respect, compassion and understanding of others. Compassion is best expressed in service, and this can be effectively taught through games and activities where interdependence and co-operation are essential to achieve the goal of the assigned task.

Differences between people, as between things in nature, create the beauty of a diverse and multifaceted world. An experience like this gives the mind, body and soul a chance to slow down, synchronise with the steady rhythm of nature and so recharge. In the wilderness, away from the distractions of city life, the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental aspects of life are brought to new levels of awareness, heightened and magnified.

One is able to gain a different perspective on oneself and one's place in the world. Reverence for life and the beauty of the earth are a natural by-product of an experience in the real and often dramatic climate (literal and figurative!) of an effective wilderness-based, adventure course.

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