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Youth standing in low water collecting specimen with net

Don’t Just Talk About It, Experience It!

Anything and everything we do within 4-H should be done with the slogan “Learn by Doing” in mind. This is an aspect that helps separate what 4-H does from other similar experiences. We never simply just talk about something, we make sure to give youth a space to actually do it. However, doing is only one piece of an overall larger experiential learning process.

The Experiential Learning Model

According to a publication by Norman and Jordan (2006), 4-H has adopted a process which allows youth to be actively engaged throughout an entire learning experience. Developed by Kolb (1984) and modified by 4-H, the experiential learning model includes 5 specific steps:

  1. Youth experience the activity by performing or doing it.
  2. Youth share what happened and how they felt during the experience.
  3. Youth process the experience by defining important aspects and common themes.
  4. Youth generalize what was processed and relate it to their daily lives.  
  5. Youth apply their new knowledge to future situations.

Experiential Learning Model – Retrieved from https://sites.udel.edu/canr-newsflash/tag/4h/

Each of these steps works off of the one before it and it is meant to be a never ending cycle. Through this process, youth are able to take control of their learning. Instead of being told what they should know, they get the opportunity to create their own knowledge and work off of previous experiences.

Benefits of Experiential Learning

The experiential learning model brings with it benefits for both facilitators (youth or adult) and the youth they’re serving. For the facilitators, it allows them to:

  • Assess prior knowledge and experiences of youth and build upon it
  • Serve as a coach using various methods to involve youth in learning
  • Cooperatively learn together with youth

Regardless of their individual learning style, youth benefit by:

  • Learning from the knowledge and skills of their peers
  • Taking responsibility for their own learning
  • Personalizing the new knowledge to their own lives

Through the next few posts, each step of the experiential learning model will be broken down into the “Do, Reflect, Apply” categories. Please follow along to learn how to best utilize this process for learning through 4-H.

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