Doing May term, like a dog

2019 Marine Biology class in the Florida Keys: Coral reef snorkeling trip

May is the month when GC faculty and students dive into immersive three-week block courses. Together, they focus on just one course.

May term is a great opportunity for experiential learning, when a class can spend extended time together off campus. At the moment, in addition to the summer Study-Service Term unit in Peru, we have students and faculty studying:

Educators differentiate experiential learning from other forms of learning that are more focused on transferring and memorizing information. Experiential learning usually includes information sharing, but most of all it teaches us how to do and be.

Experiential learning is supported and accelerated by mentors. Humans, like other social animals, are designed to learn by mentoring. Watch a puppy being mentored:

Note how the puppy wants to do this thing, but is afraid and not sure it can. At one point it turns tail and walks away. The dog mentors the puppy by demonstrating, by cajoling, by demonstrating some more, by encouraging, by showing affection and finally by celebrating the accomplishment. The gentle, skillful, persuasive, supportive behaviors of the mentor help the puppy to feel cared for and inspired, to imagine its puppy-self doing that, and to gain courage.

So here’s to all the GC students and faculty who are “doggedly” teaching and learning new ways of being and doing. It is the most powerful and the most human way we teach and learn.

Rebecca Stoltzfus