Experiential Education Conclave is an annual gathering that provides opportunity to learn of the topic and interact with others exploring it. During the recent weeks as I saw fliers and then images of the 3rd edition at Gurugram I recalled with fondness the event I had attended a year ago.
Going down memory lane
During his session, ‘Pains in Practice of Experiential Education’, it was interesting to observe how Vishwas Parchure noticed a frame on the wall depicting multiple knots and used that observation effectively. We were asked to select a knot from the frame we identified most with. I was confused as all knots appeared the same to me. We then discussed the proverbial knots in our lives. The manner in which one of us expressed his knot was for me succinct and identifiable: ‘Need for authenticity in a world which is perhaps not even looking for it!’ After this we moved on to offering plausible solutions to a participant. The facilitator’s body language, ease, and calm reflected the light tone of the session.
Mahesh Chaturvedi’s session ‘My experiences in Education’ was different from what I had perceived on reading the blurb, but interesting none the less. The idea, it appeared, was to focus on being childlike and not fall into the rut of being an adult. ‘Adults are horrible people’ we were told more than once! The speaker appeared to have a wealth of experiences to talk from and therefore stayed away from reading the slides! His slides though had some very lovely quotes including a couple from the classic, The Little Prince. ‘All grown ups were once children . . . but only few of them remember it.’ One of us pointed out that the room was getting cold. We were asked for solutions and while there were some like switching off the fans and air conditioners to moving into the open, the most interesting and childlike response was to cover ourselves with the dari (carpet) we were sitting on!
Colin Beard’s keynote ‘Changing the way we understand how people learn through Experiences’ was just wonderful. He brought in connections with personal experiences into the realm of the topic in a very interesting fashion! When talking about classroom teaching he shared how there is now very little taught by way of telling and we are moving from a transmission mode to a transactional mode in classrooms. The classroom design too is moving away from the colonial ‘rows’ format. In other words students are free to move their benches or chairs and tables and not all classes have four walls! He ended on a challenging note as he conveyed that what he had talked of were all American experiences which may or may not work here; we need to have our very own Indian stories and narratives.
My favourite though was the workshop ‘Connecting the Task with the Team, with the Individual’ by Rob Thomas. We walked out of the room after 5-10 minutes and he pointed out how faces espoused smiles and bodies relaxed just by the virtue of walking out. How true I thought as I played with stones! We walked around the campus discussing the ripple effect after causing some in the pool formed in the river – ‘Ripples of learning’. ‘Action Centred Leadership’ was followed by discussions on overlaps between work, personal, and leadership spaces. I realized how we could make 90 minutes interesting and educative without asking participants to take notes or bear with power-points.
I had attended the event to learn how experiential education could help me in pursuing conservation education and realized that conservation education has indeed a lot to learn from experiential education and perhaps vice-versa. We need to move beyond our small circles and facilitate cross learning within the disciplines pursuing education. Only then can we have an education that meets the needs of the 21st century.