“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