Real quick- what is experiential education?

So when I say I’m an experiential educator, what do I mean?

In one simple definition, experiential education is an ongoing four-step cycle: experience, reflect, generalize, apply. You recall a lived experience (Remember a time when you…), or create one (playing a team building game, for example). Reflect– afterwards, you reflect and create personal meaning from that experience. Generalize- you make connections between that meaning and other experiences with resonant meaning, in your own or others lives. Apply– you consider how this realization will be lived.

Through another lens, experiential education is purposeful risk taking. Deep learning means seeing something differently. Means change. And change requires risk; it means being willing to do something differently for different results.

Hence, the currency of experiential education is two things: trust and courage.

And the experiential educator (also known as facilitator’s) role is to create an environment that makes it safe to risk.

This not only highlights the implication of trust and strong relationships and strong community as part of an effective learning. But also that the facilitator themselves must take meaningful risks, walking the walk and modeling that trust and courage. This invites the authenticity, the lived experience of the people in the classroom. It leverages exactly where we’re standing, as exactly who we are, as fertile grounds.

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and author of the brilliant “The Art of Possibility,” defines success in life as “being surrounded by shining eyes.”

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant — there is no such thing,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote. “Making your unknown known is the important thing — and keeping the unknown always beyond you…”

Experiential education, hence, to paraphrase the words of such lovely creators as these, is shining eyes looking to make the unknown known, together.


To learn about other helpful resources, past experiential education projects, current work, or other curiosities, contact me.


“And awe came upon everyone…”

If you don’t know and love “On Being” with Krista Tippet right now, count yourself lucky because you get to experience this for the first time. Listening to this interview between Krista Tippett and Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit and founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, CA, articulated a feeling I’d always known and not had words for.

Cheat sheet: find awe, spaciousness, and delight with people, and you are contributing something right to the world.


Krista: There’s so much grief and so much heartbreak in these kids’ lives and in the stories that you tell, and yet you always come back again and again to talking in this way, you know, that spiritually, theologically, this is not so much about helping others —  but this is fundamentally about our common call to delight in one another. I think that’s very unexpected language.

Fr. Boyle: Well, Dorothy Day, I think, she quotes Ruskin when she always talks about the duty to delight, and I think it’s right to see it as a duty because you have to be absolutely conscious of it. But it’s really a delighting that enters into full kinship with each other. 

You know, the answer really is kinship. Everybody’s so exhausted by kind of the tenor of the polarity right now in our country and the division is the opposite of God, frankly. You know, I always think of Dives with Lazarus. Dives is in hell not because he’s rich, but because he kind of refused to be in relationship with Lazarus, that that parable is not about bank accounts and heaven. It’s really about us. And so, you know, what’s on Jesus’ mind, he says that all may be one. And that’s kind of where we need to inch our way closer, that we imagine a circle of compassion, then we imagine nobody’s standing outside that circle. You know, God created, if you will, an otherness so that we would dedicate our lives to a union with each other.

But the truth is, you know, we’re so used to a God, a one-false-move God, and so we’re not really accustomed to the no-matter-whatness of God, to the God who’s just plain old too busy loving us to be disappointed in us. And that is, I think, the hardest thing to believe, but everybody in this space knows it’s the truest thing you can say about God.
KT: You use this word spacious and synonyms for spacious; they’re all over the place, especially in your memoir when you’re talking about God. Spaciousness of God, the vastness of God, the largeness of God. You quote Hafiz, this great wild God, God’s limitless magnanimity. The awe of God.

 Because what if you were to read awe as a measure of the health of any community? So you see how they love one another or there is nobody in need in this community, for example. But my favorite one is, it leaped off the page to me, and it says, “And awe came upon everyone,” so that the measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship. So that means the decided movement towards awe and giant steps away from judgment….

 So how can we seek really a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it? And I think that’s sort of the key here. That’s the place of health in any community. In any community, that’s how you know that you’re healthy.”

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