Experiential Education Works: Why We Do What We Do, Part 1 of Infinity

urlFor even the most casual observers, it’s relatively clear that, unsupported, public education is not able to provide struggling teenage students with all the resources they need to succeed outside the classroom walls.  For decades now, one-third of San Diego’s youth have dropped out of public high schools, and nation-wide secondary school graduation statistics paint a bleak picture similarly.  Further, those who do attend high-school classes are being diagnosed with more mood, anxiety, attention, substance, and behavior disorders than ever before, and recreational substance abuse has increased among students in an attempt to self-medicate.

These are serious issues, and, thankfully, there are a number of important thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs who are thinking seriously about these problems.  In diagnosing the possible source of some of them, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson has been instrumental in suggesting that the current educational system is antiquated and ill-equipped to utilize talented young people in ways that would best suit them as individuals.  The 19th century, industrial model of education asks students to be as uniform as possible and focus myopically on “serious” academic subjects only.  But the way in which that model forces students to focus on those subjects kills the endemic creativity we are all blessed with in early childhood.  According to this model, there’s a right way to learn math and there’s a wrong way, and you can bet that the wrong way won’t show up on the state-wide, standardized test.

As such, as a now industrialized nation, we have a pandemic creativity shortage.  To quote Sir Ken: “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status”, and that’s where Positive Adventures and other experiential educators can make substantial progress in supporting struggling young people.

There are a number of comprehensive studies available on the Association for Experiential Education’s website that paint a very clear picture: experiential education works for struggling teens.  All of the large scale, multi-center, longitudinal, studies conducted by nationally recognized university researchers show that participating youth show marked behavioral progress during the experiential education initiatives and bring these new-found skills home with them.  Indeed, one of the studies concluded that experiential education programs like wilderness therapy were “associated with statistically significant positive changes in overall functioning” in short-term and long-term contexts.

At Positive Adventures, we too believe that cultivating creativity is an essential component for becoming a balanced and productive individual, and many of our team-building initiatives ask participants to discover and share their unique talents to create a cohesive team-unit with peers.  Our highly trained program engineers custom build each of our programs with these goals in mind but also with a thoroughly researched knowledge of particular group dynamics.  Our work may not single handedly palliate San Diego’s public educational crisis, but we believe it’s a start.  We have the research on our side, and it demonstrates what we already know so well: that success is always a choice, so choose positive!

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