Skillathons: Experiential Learning in Action

Experiential Learning Process for skillathon learners and leaders 

Experience: (Doing)

Youths do before being told or shown how. Experiential learning focuses on the learner not the group leader. Youths test and discover their own solutions while practicing one or more life skills. The group leader’s challenge is to observe and encourage, instead of showing or telling how.

Depending on the size of the groups and the number of stations, divide the members into teams of two to four. Start each team at a different station. Rotate the groups through all stations. Allow about ten minutes at each station. Then ask each team to select a station and give a short presentation on how they solved that task. Follow with questions about the overall activity.

Share: (What Happened)

Youths describe the result of the experience and their reactions. Helpers ask questions such as, “What did you do? What happened? How did it feel?” and encourage everyone to reflect on their individual experiences.

What was it like to plan and conduct a skillathon?
What was hardest for you to do? Easiest?

Process: (What’s Important?)

Youths discuss what was most important about what they did. Learners expand on common themes and ideas discussed in the Share stage. They discuss both project subject matter and life skills practiced.

What did you learn from this activity that you didn’t know before?
What difference did you notice about how different teams did or did not work together?
Why is it important to take time to plan carefully?

Generalize (So What?)

Youths relate the project and life skill practiced to their everyday experiences. Key questions include: “So what? What does this mean to you? What similar experiences have you had?” Again, the discussion should focus on both the subject matter and the life skill.

How did teaching and learning this way compare to what happens in classrooms?
What did you learn about being a leader that will help you in working with groups?

Apply: (Now What?)

Youths share how they could use the new life and project skills and knowledge gained from the experience. Ideally this stage leads directly to building on the experience by youths doing another activity and intentionally using what they learned. Thus, the cycle begins again.

If you were going to conduct another activity, what aspects of planning would you do differently?