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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Adventure-Based Learning

I'm currently in my final semester in Prescott College's undergraduate program.  As I approach my graduation it's been fun to reflect on the experiences I've had over the past four years. For example, my college education has led me to study Spanish while living with a host family on the beach in Mexico; I spent a month going sea kayaking and studying marine natural history on the Sea of Cortez; I did my senior project last summer working at an Earth-based early childhood center in Big Sur, CA. My studies have truly been interdisciplinary as I've studied psychology, wilderness leadership, expressive arts therapy, dance, theater, literature, child development, and environmental studies in a rich tapestry of engaged learning. By my final semester, I’ve already completed the required courses I need to fulfill my competence area, so I decided to treat myself by taking an elective course called Canoeing: Introduction to Expeditionary Paddling.

Canoeing: Introduction to Expeditionary Paddling is a great example of the kind of learning that Prescott College stands for.  The learning is embodied, experiential, and integrative.  During the time we're here in town, we go out twice a week to spend the day paddling on local lakes.  This gives us the opportunity to hone our skills and practice specific strokes. We also use this time to prepare for our weekend expeditions. We go on four weekend expeditions throughout the semester from Thursday-Sunday, although our upcoming trip on the San Juan river in Utah will be from Thursday-Monday. 

Our first trip of the semester was on the Colorado River in Nevada. We traveled through Black Canyon, which is a stretch of the river noted for steep cliff faces, hot springs, and several slot canyons that feed into the river. Over the course of three days, we took our time as we paddled and took exploratory hikes up whichever slot canyons caught our interest.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was exploring up the randomly named Boy Scout Canyon.  Boy Scout Canyon is a slot canyon that has a creek of hot water flowing through it.  The water is geothermally heated and flows from beneath the Earth’s surface.  As we trekked up the canyon, we found numerous pools to soak in and waterfalls to frolic in.  It was surreal to be in the desert soaking a creek of flowing hot water with the Colorado River below us. 

As we hiked, we stopped to examine geological formations that were present in the canyon walls.  We investigated different plants we found along our journey in order to better understand the complex landscape we were traveling through.  In the days prior to our expedition, we each took time to do individual research on the history of the Hoover Dam and its effects on the Colorado River ecosystem.  On the first night of the trip, we had a discussion about our research findings.  The learning was deepened by the fact that we were physically traveling through the area that we were researching about. 

The trip was amazing.  It was a classic example of the kind of learning that happens at Prescott College: experiential, interdisciplinary, and engaged learning.  Not only are we learning the hard skills required for canoeing expeditions, such as knot-tying, expedition planning, paddling strokes, and map and compass skills; we’re also learning about geology, ecology, and history in a multidimensional learning experience.  I can’t wait for our other expeditions!  Next up: paddling on the San Juan river in Utah.

Thus concludes my first blog post.  Kevin out.

P.S. – Thank you to Liz Torna for sharing your pictures!

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