"What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand". This famous quote lies at the heart of experiential learning, which is simply the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as "learning through reflection on doing". Experiential learning is distinct from rote or didactic learning, in which the learner plays a comparatively passive role. When we set up the University of the Desert, we set out to bring people from different cultures face to face, creating a real, living and not a virtual or digital experience. It is this that contributes to the intensity of the experience, along with the use of the outdoors as the medium for learning. In his book ‘Theory into Practice’, Barnes (1997) wrote in straightforward terms why the outdoors is so powerful. · The outdoors is an alien experience · The outdoors is an equalizer · Real consequences can be used as learning points · Fears and challenges can be approached in a supportive environment · Everyday concerns are left behind · Emotions are heightened · Communication is enhanced

 

This section of the website is dedicated to sharing and getting people engaged in some of the issues we debate around the campfire at night.

You will find three educational resources here;

Firstly, there are twelve downloadable lesson plans which focus on the issues that we discuss here in the desert. These plans have been written by advisory social education teachers. Secondly there is a downloadable power-point presentation on Connecting Cultures for anyone who wants to deliver an inspirational presentation, or simply find out more, and thirdly, there is a section where you can see what our course participants are doing  in classrooms in Europe and Arabia before they come to Oman, and when they return home.

Remember you can also post a question to the desert teams, and follow our Trail Tweets and Notes via our digital campfire in the Interact section of the website.

 

The most important question people ask is ‘Does Connecting Cultures make a difference’? We firmly believe that it does. The use of pre and post journey presentations, together with on-line lesson plans and our Digital Campfire ensure that the impact reaches an audience beyond those who are fortunate enough to physically join us in the desert. One of the key elements of Kurt Hahn’s philosophy on experiential learning is the need for a period of silence, to enable reflection and embed understanding. After four days of intense debate and discussion, that period of silence is built into the final day of the Connecting Cultures programme as a solo. The results are captured, enabling us to measure the short term impact of the programme, which is overwhelmingly positive. We are currently working with researchers at both the University of Edinburgh and the University of Indiana to examine the longer term impact of the programme. Initial results look to be very positive, and a summary will be shared here once that research is complete.

"I have been observing and running Connecting Cultures courses for the last five years. During this time I have become fascinated by the programme philosophy and the way in which individuals explore values and consider their roles in making positive change in the world through understanding cultural diversity. All evidence suggests long term positive impact as a result of participation. The School of Education remain committed to collaborating and supporting research and curriculum development for Connecting Cultures and any other ways in which we can support this timely and crucially important contribution to creating a peaceful world. It is hard to over state the importance of this programme."
Pete Allison PhD FRGS
Head of the Graduate School of Education
Senior Lecturer in Values and Experiential Learning
The University of Edinburgh, Scotland

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Before they come to Oman the young participants are set the challenge to get into classrooms and talk to young people about what motivated them to apply for Connecting Cultures, and what they will be doing. Once they return from Oman, they will then return to talk about what they did, and most importantly what they learned. Take a look below at what they have been up to.

What the silence of the desert had to offer

11
Mar
Date: 11 Mar 2017
Author: Eszter Orsolya Doba'k
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Back from Oman. Bringing the desert home

22
Feb
Date: 22 Feb 2017
Author: Maria Gomez Lopez
no comments

Hi there! I gave my post-journey presentation yesterday to TRAMA research group, from Complutense University in Madrid. It wasn't until I was already talking that I realised how complicated would be to transmit the experience, to actually make people here feel what the trip gave to me/us. After talking about the program, the topics the workshops revolved around and the conclusions drawn from them, I focused in the other side of the "experiential learning", this is, the des-connection from the quotidian stimuli for the re-connection with the wildest nature, with a simpler way of living, wit ...

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Back from Oman. Bringing the desert home Image