Experiential learning in practice

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At the Sustainability Institute (SI), we apply the experiential learning approach to all learning experiences that we design. In addition, we apply six learning principles (as part of our learning philosophy). These are:

  • Place-based
  • Action-oriented 
  • Embedded in Nature 
  • Reflective 
  • Of Mind, Body & Soul
  • Community-led 

Place-based learning is an educational approach that utilises the local environment and community for learning. It emphasises connecting classroom instruction to real-world experiences and promotes engagement, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. By directly interacting with their surroundings, students gain a deeper understanding of their community’s assets, challenges, and unique characteristics. At the SI, we use our position in the Lynedoch Eco-Village to connect theory and practice and encourage learning by doing.

The core principle of place-based learning is that the local environment provides a rich and meaningful context for learning across different subjects. It aims to make learning relevant, authentic, and applicable to students’ lives by involving field trips, community service projects, and hands-on activities. Students conduct research, interview community members, participate in local events, and collaborate with community organisations to develop a sense of place identity and cultural awareness.

This type of learning nurtures a sense of stewardship and responsibility towards the local environment while promoting sustainable practices and civic engagement. It encourages students to appreciate the interconnectedness between themselves, their community, and the larger world. This approach fosters a holistic and contextualised approach to education, creating meaningful connections between students and their local surroundings, and extending knowledge and skills beyond the classroom. 

Parallel to place-based, we embrace a nature-based outlook on life and learning. We see ourselves as being co-inhabitants of the world and question what it means to be human. Instead of passive receivers of knowledge, we equip participants of our programmes with the tools they need to actively engage with complex problems. We also encourage them to align their minds, bodies, and souls; the intellectual, physical, and spiritual aspects of their beings, and the unique experiences that make them who they are. 

At each stage of the learning journey, we remain open to deep listening and re-learning — guided by ways of knowing that are not always explicit, nor obvious. As we navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world, the SI serves as a uniquely African example of how sustainable education can shape a more just, resilient, and  environmentally conscious future — one student, one community, and one immersive learning experience at a time.