What is Experiential Education?

Adventure Education is "Learning through play".

Adventure Education falls under the umbrella of experiential learning because it is hands-on learning.  It engages the learner physically, emotionally and mentally.  It encourages exploring, appropriate risk taking, and play.  Unknown and unpredictable outcomes create adventure, fun, laughter and learning!

Adventure educators use a specific framework to facilitate learning:   "The Adventure Wave" undulates between three phases: Brief, Activity, & Debrief.  Learning begins with the Brief, where directions and framing are given. During the Activity, participants engage in specific challenges. The Debrief can happen throughout the process but the final debrief happens after the activity.  Here, reflection and discussion give participants opportunities to transfer what they have learned from the activity to their lives.  The Metaphor is a powerful tool that helps with this process.

 Adventure education creates a safe environment for exploring the unknown and provides opportunities to recognize personal strengths and weaknesses; to learn about others; to learn life-skills and develop character.

Adventure Education develops the following life-skills and character traits:


Anti-drug Respect
Communication Responsibility
Compassion Problem Solving
Critical Thinking Self Esteem
Empathy Tolerance
Health and Physical Education Trust

Contemporary Adventure Education has been making application to experiential education since the 1930's when Kurt Hahn's Outward Bound Program helped sailors survive during World War II.

But, the idea of Experiential Learning was born at the turn of the Twentieth Century. John Dewey recognized that learning is a process where students gain insights from their experiences. From his teachings, the philosophy of experiential learning continues to grow. In spite of trends in education, experiential learning has never been abandoned. Rather, it has been nurtured and developed by leaders in learning: David Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle, Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, and Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence are just a few.

It is current brain research that recognizes experiential education's impact on learning.  In his book Learning with the Body in Mind, Eric Jensen reports, "Researchers know that 'play' plays an integral role in learning." He sites adventure play, non-competitive group play and exercise play as recommended programs.  In Super Teaching, he further states, "Recent findings in brain research have validated the use of many types of games which were previously dismissed as play."  Those findings recognize the importance of emotions, body memory, and low threat, high challenge exercise. Play embodies each of those elements.

Now, this is the POWER of adventure education!

Jensen, Eric     Learning with the Body in Mind 59-60

                          Super Teaching 161





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