Experiential Learning for Troubled Young Men

What is Experiential Learning and Why Does It Work?

Experiential learning is a process through which students at Northwoods Ranch & Retreat are able to positively cultivate knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences beyond the traditional academic or therapeutic environment where they may otherwise have struggled. Experiential learning encompasses a variety of activities where hands-on experiences are available.

The Experiential Learning theory was proposed by psychologist David Kolb. According to Kolb, this type of learning can be defined as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming experience.” The experiential theory proposed by Kolb takes a more holistic approach and emphasizes how experiences, including cognitions, environmental factors, and emotions influence the learning process.

The positive and supportive Experiential learning style used by Northwoods Ranch & Retreat contains each of the following attributes:

  1. Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.
  2. Opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results.
  3. Opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or physically.
  4. A designed learning experience that includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes, and successes

Properly structured, supervised and assessed experiential learning programs can stimulate academic inquiry by promoting interdisciplinary learning, community engagement, career development, cultural and self awareness, leadership, and other behavioral, cognitive and emotional skills. Students who utilize this process have the opportunity to identify and explore their own strengths while learning new skills as well as addressing areas of weakness which they can improve upon.