Trust the Process
It was a hot summer day and I was walking past a group of upper-classmen, high school boys who had just finished mountain-boarding. As they were cleaning up equipment, I heard one of them say, “Circle up everyone … It’s analogy time!”.
We failed that group of boys. We failed them, not so much in that specific moment, but in the many moments that they had leading up to that one. We failed them in the many conversations that they had after each of their activities at camp for years. Our failure wasn’t in having the conversations; our failure wasn’t even in making analogies; our failure was that we didn’t trust the Experiential Learning Cycle and do things in the right order.
Two people that have laid the foundations for how people lead activities in the world of experiential education are Luckner and Nadler. These two created what is known as the Experiential Learning Cycle. Their idea is simply that any experience we have, can (and arguably should) be processed to see what we can learn from it and how it impacts our lives. They show this in four stages.
The facilitators job is to help the participants walk through those stages of their journey. Doing so allows the person to take ownership of their experience, discover its value, and then find the most appropriate place to use that in their life. This act of discovery is what make it so valuable and allows any new insights gained to have potency. Those high-school boys on the hill that day were not allowed to have the moment of discovery. Instead, they were used to being spoon fed insights that were drawn in someone’s head and not from their own experiences and thus were less valuable to them. Often times our goal is to have the participant come to a potentially life-changing insight, but if we rush them past the reflection on their own experience, then the insight will not have relevance to their own experience.
As you think through the conversations you have with young people, I encourage you to look at this process. If you structure your questions in a sequenced way you can allow any life experience to be fruitful to the young person. You have the opportunity to either guide them into self-discovery or offer them something trite … the choice is yours.
This installment's activity is called "All in - All out". This activity is good for larger groups and opens up conversations regarding stewardship, utilizing the gifts we are given, and how to work for the common good of the entire community. A PDF of the activity will be posted below soon.
This article is part of a series on adventure catechesis. Check out the others in the series:
You're Already Doing it
Learning Happens with the Second Question
Behold the Power of Story!
What's in a name?
This series is written by Shawn Madden from components of a potential forthcoming book.