Last week I spent a day in my native Chicago and had a phenomenal lunch with Victor Saad, founder of Experience Institute, along with several of the organization’s team members and alumni. As the name suggests, they are essentially challenging young adults to design their own education through experiences around the world.
But like so many things, you need to know the story behind it — in fact, I urge you to take two and a half minutes right now to get to know Victor’s incredible story:
Now, many of you might be thinking that experiential learning is nothing new. And that’s really the point. Prior to the institutionalization of schooling, arguably all learning was experiential. Not too dissimilar from the fact that organic food is nothing new. After all, prior to the industrialization of food production, ostensibly all food was organic.
In fact, Wikipedia reminds us that “for the vast majority of its history, agriculture can be described as having been organic; only during the 20th century was a large supply of new chemicals introduced to the food supply.”
As I spent that evening in Chicago at a sold-out screening of the wonderful documentary Most Likely to Succeed (a must-see per a previous blog post), I was reminded that it was ten high school and college leaders known as the Committee of Ten who gathered in 1892 and unanimously agreed that "...every subject which is taught at all in a secondary school should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every pupil.” A standardized, one-size-fits-all approach that was developed in and for an industrialized age yet has been largely sustained through today’s information age.
I love the way that the film’s director/narrator, Greg Whitely, frames it: “Over 100 years ago the United States went from one-room schoolhouses to the robust, industrial model we have now. It was a transformation that was nothing short of miraculous. Perhaps it’s time for another transformation?”
Perhaps organic is to 21st century food as experiential is to 21st century learning?
Or more importantly, as Ted Dintersmith, Most Likely to Succeed’s executive producer, challenged us to ponder in a Q&A session after the screening: If you were a member of 2016’s equivalent of the Committee of Ten, what learning objectives would you propose today? What would you want future high school graduates to know, and/or be able to do?
Maybe that’s missing the point? Perhaps the experiential learning opportunity isn’t to answer for others as the Committee of Ten did, but to answer for yourself — to become your own Committee of One! I for one agree with Victor and his Experience Institute colleagues that “there's never been a more important and available time to reimagine how you learn. This is your chance to think differently about education — to make it something you create, not just consume.”
So what will you create? How will you leap? Or in the WonderLab vernacular, how will you use your gifts in a way that brings you joy and serves others? Moreover, as we say at Blyth-Templeton Academy, how will you use your city as your campus?
Please do let us know, and in the meantime, happy leaping!