Education as Therapy

Experiential Learning vs. Recreational Therapy: Where does experiential learning fall short?

Within the past decade, schools across the nation have become more familiar with the concept of experiential learning. Educators, recognizing a flawed system, have been searching for radically new ways to reach students, capture their interest, and increase graduation rates. Alternative programs like JobCorps have embraced experiential learning as a pathway to high school graduation, marketable skills, and successful employment. However, the first research studies measuring the success rate of JobCorps students have yielded some disappointing results. Although JobCorps graduates do have a higher rate of employment immediately after graduation, less than five years later they have nearly identical wages and rates of employment as their non-JobCorps, at-risk peers. But why? Does this mean experiential learning is yet another failure on the education record?

In a word: no. The real answer is that these programs simply do not go far enough. Students who are struggling with traditional education also frequently struggle with mental health issues. These issues require more than merely an effective method of knowledge retention. Recreational therapy takes it that essential step further, providing students with the tools to work through their emotional issues alongside intellectual issues. Only then can a student truly embark upon a clear pathway to stable and successful adulthood.