The idea of learning from experience has become commonplace in the world of higher education where often one of the most important goals for a student is to gain employment upon graduation. Considered more broadly, the experiential focus prepares a student for life — a world of further study, employment and living. What it is: The “extended classroom” places a particular emphasis on how well the student can apply knowledge in practical settings.
These experiences ought to:
• be based upon clear, well-articulated and measurable objectives;
• incorporate meaningful learning and working dimensions;
• include learning about other communities, how to enter them, be an active participant and contributor, and be accountable to them;
• contribute to the development of life skills;
• foster personal growth;
• promote engagement and networking; and
• provide cross-cultural exposure and learning, and allow for the exploration of the world.
Experiential learning can take on forms as varied as:
• employment in a field related to an area of academic concentration;
• internships that help explore career choices;
• volunteer work in the not-for-profit sector to fight for social or economic justice;
• community-based projects that discuss issues and solve problems in groups;
• study abroad incorporating service-learning projects; and
How it works: Each student is required to take between one and four experiential blocks as part of his or her academic program. These blocks are designed to meet each student’s academic and career interests and can include varied experiences, as outlined above. Each experiential learning block must be approved and supervised by the student’s faculty advisor or, as appropriate, another Quest tutor. Normally, experiential learning blocks are completed as part of a student’s individual Concentration Program and must contribute to the achievement of the learning outcomes agreed upon for the Concentration developed by the student and approved by the faculty advisor.
Experiential learning blocks are treated in the same way as regular classroom-based blocks. They are an integral part of the formal curriculum, and they are based upon specific learning outcomes. They are supervised, involve assignments, and result in the awarding of grades.
For US students who are currently receiving or planning to apply for US Direct Loans through the FAFSA, there are some limitations on the destination for your Experiential Learning.
Experiential Learning Profiles
“How do we communicate across different cultures?”
VANCOUVER INTER-CULTURAL ORCHESTRA
Tangshan, China / Graduated in 2013 Faculty Advisor: Laurel Parsons
I spent one block at the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VI-CO). My tutor referred me to the organization.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
A majority of my time was put into learning about the organization, especially during the first few days. I wrote journal entries and did academic reading almost daily. I read as many materials online as possible in addition to talking to musicians and directors. My job was very event oriented. Before concerts, I canvassed many community centers, radio stations, and TV stations to advertise and book interviews. I also updated and reorganized the VI-CO website, translated materials, and attended rehearsals so that we could prepare for the concert. On the day of concert, all staff worked from morning to midnight both on and off stage.
CONTINUED WORK WITH VI-CO
I’m currently working on the VI-CO music scores catalogue for future uses in publication and educational outreach. Since there are very few inter-cultural orchestras and the music concept is truly groundbreaking, VI-CO composers and musicians must create all original pieces. VI-CO hopes that this catalogue will act as research resource and make performance material accessible so that others will be inspired to engage in bridging cultures through music.
Communicate with your academic and on-site supervisors often so that you know the EL is balanced with your practical and academic work. Continuously reflect on your experience in relation to your Question.This can help you get the most out of your EL because there is always more than what you can learn in one or a few blocks. Then, network, network, network, network! Networking is so important!
“What is environmental education?”
Sunshine Coast, BC / 4th year Faculty Advisor: Marjorie Wonham
I spent my experiential learning block at an organic/biodynamic/almost entirely self-sufficient farm just outside of Wellington, NZ, and then a sustainable living festival on the south island, called Luminate. I found the farm through the orgnaization “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. WWOOF is a network of national organizations that facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
At the farm, we woke up around 8, had breakfast, then went out to weed, plant, put up blueberry netting, mulch, harvest honey, etc. on the farm for about 4 hours. We learned how to milk a cow, make yogurt, cheese, and butter, and look after pigs, cows, sheep, and chickens. We would break for lunch (we made all of our meals with eggs, meat, dairy, and vegetables from the farm and bread or muesli that we baked ourselves) and work again for a few hours if we had more work to do and it wasn’t too hot.
The most valuable part of my EL experience was meeting other like-minded, inspiring, and motivated people who were passionate about sustainable living and sharing their knowledge with others.
WHAT I LEARNED
I was surprised by the different motivations behind living sustainably. The farm I worked at was motivated by the idea of doing everything themselves, traditionally, and saving money. Other farms I have worked at (not for EL) were motivated for environmental reasons. They often had similar outcomes, but I learned that the first mindset can lead to doing extravagant things, like having your own cow and having to processing that milk, where sharing a cow may make more sense, or having your own wind turbine and having to maintain it by yourself, versus sharing a larger wind turbine with your neighbours so everyone works less. I came to realize how important community is to truly sustainable living.
“What is poverty and how can it be reduced?”
Bellingham, WA / Graduated 2013 Faculty Advisor: Mai Yasue
While studying abroad in Bangladesh I volunteered with Islamic Relief (IR), a huge global aid organization that has offices in most Asian and Middle Eastern countries. I travelled to the rural northern part of the country and wrote a relatively short article for them about a village that is constantly threatened by monsoon floods, and what the organization is doing to help them become more prepared and resilient.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
I spent most of my days in the field, walking from home to home and interviewing village residents about their experience with the floods and the programs that IR was implementing (all through an interpreter). I also tailed the other IR development officers to get a sense of their daily work and interactions with the residents, and took lots of pictures that IR ended up using in promotional material.
THE HARDEST PART
The most challenging part for me was working with an interpreter – I always felt like I was just getting a small bit of the whole story being told.
The most rewarding part of my experience was producing an interesting article and feeling useful. It was also great to meet so many locals who were very curious about what a Canadian fellow was doing in the boonies of Bangladesh.
If you are going abroad for another reason beside EL (language, exchange) and also want to do EL, don’t be afraid to figure things out when you are on the ground – who knows what might present itself.
“What shapes a body?”
Calgary, AB / 4th year
Advisors: Ryan Derby-Talbot, Megan Bulloch
I spent a block at a private school in Calgary collecting data about fitness levels and nutrition in school-aged children. I’m interested in childhood obesity and since kids spend most of their time at school, I decided this would be a good place to look.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
In the morning I would meet with administration and go over any new developments. Then I would spend the rest of the day (until about 3:30) doing fitness testing or surveying students. During testing breaks I would tabluate data and write up results.
THE HARDEST PART
I didn’t anticipate how much work there would actually be, as silly as that sounds. Fitness testing takes a lot of time and it takes a ton of determination to stay committed and finish what you started–even when you don’t want to.
WHAT I LEARNED
I got some invaluable experience with a subject that I will likely be working with later. I discovered what I like and don’t like about data collection, working with kids, and working with a third party that is also expecting something from your research.
One great thing about working with academics and teachers is that they have tons of contacts for grad schools and future research opportunities.
I would recommend that you find an EL experience that will give you a head start on your Keystone. Working with a school or similar institution is a really good idea, as well; you receive tons of support and advice and it makes the process go a whole lot smoother. If I were to do my EL again, I would plan it further in advance! There were so many things I didn’t account for and I had to scramble pretty hard.