Why experiences are key. Why we should encourage young people to seek rich experiences and not to crave things. Neil Bunting


Why experiences are key. Why we should encourage young people to seek rich experiences and not to crave things.

Surely, the point of education is to encourage our learners to try out as many new experiences as possible – to plunge themselves in the deep end of life and submerge themselves in rich experiences that will stay with them forever despite the ephemeral nature of the action. There is plenty of research to show that what we do, we learn from, and we remember.

Concrete experiences are what we remember most about our school days. We remember ski trips, football matches, service action, work experience, Duke of Edinburgh courses, Model United Nations meetings, debating societies, assembly presentations, guest speakers – and occasions when our teacher takes us out of that stuffy classroom to breathe – to inhale fresh air, to smell the sea on a beach clean-up, or feel sand in their face on a desert adventure, or to feel the heat around the fire on a leadership camp, we remember practical experiments on a science field trip, the camaraderie of sports tournaments and swim meets. We don’t remember dry and sterile lectures and airless theory lessons with no real-life context and connections.

Real world activities activate our senses and pump oxygen to our brain. They put us in touch with parts of the brain that normal sedentary life does little to activate. Whereas, in days gone by, children would get some of these feelings and energies from walking to school in the rain, wind and snow, from ‘playing out’: sledging and climbing trees and from living a more active lifestyle, often nowadays school provides the only outlet for real experiences – not including the digital and simulated ones created by an Xbox or an IPhone – for children, who are mostly herded around shopping malls searching for the latest smart phone to buy and take home, where they are prisoners in their own bedroom.

School life can provide the cure: a cooking class, for example, will delight the learners through touch, taste and smell – senses which are less and less used, in a sensory world but one that is heading for senses shut down – dominated by simulated sights and sounds only.

Rich experiences of experiential adventure will stay with children much longer than stuffy sterile classroom environments that offer little in the way of links to the real world. Experiences build relationships, and bring young people a sense of enduring worth and fulfilment. What’s more, experiences open new perspectives, offer new opportunities, and enrich a young person’s view of the world.

Some classrooms are not stuffy and separated from life, they welcome in the real world and provide a bridge rather than a wall. Great educators are guides to the bridge, and constantly stimulate the learners’ senses by bringing experiences into the classroom – by throwing the windows open and smashing down the barriers to learning -the best educators work without walls and call their lessons learning celebrations.



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