The Experiential Learning Curriculum
A healthy life involves intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual balance coupled with and focused by a sense of purpose that motivates and inspires. Learning cannot be merely intellectual: it must accommodate all aspects of our lives; accordingly, the curriculum needs to be experiential.
To learn from experience is to learn from success and failure, from things we are fascinated by and things that do not interest us, from things we find difficult and things we find easy. It is to learn that communal experience enables us all to discover abilities we did not think we had or to acquire new confidence to attempt again things that we have failed to do before. It is to learn to work as part of a team and to learn to work alone.
Experience is not only about formal learning: learning to organise ourselves, to motivate ourselves, to control ourselves, to forgive ourselves and to argue with ourselves are all abilities we derive from experience. A school which takes all responsibility for its pupils by using "carrot and stick" methods to insist upon certain kinds of behavior, and conformity to certain kinds of rules, may succeed in controlling its pupils, but it is unlikely to inculcate the self-control they will need when they enter adult life. So UWC Dilijan endeavours to strike a balance between rules and standards, between external requirements and invitations to voluntary participation. Learning how to manage that balance it itself experiential.
In more tangible terms experiential learning is about reflecting on what is done, whether it be experimenting in the science laboratories, visiting historical sites, or performing in theatre. Students are expected to engage in a practical way, not just read about their subject matter.
In CAS students will learn from stretching themselves physically as well as creatively. They will engage in projects that serve the community, projects that involve co-operation with local people, projects that involve first asking and reflecting on what local people would like to change about our city and how we might partner with them to help achieve that because the school is part of Dilijan, and what is good for Dilijan is good for the school.
Experiential learning is above all challenging and transformative: it takes us outside our comfort-zone in a stretch-cycle that takes us through imbalance to the unfamiliar and potentially challenging before returning us to balance and comfort. As we repeat this cycle we grow stronger, able to engage with ever more challenging projects as we learn that we can do things we thought were beyond us, and so benefit from the greater transformations that new and more powerful experiences can bring.