Volunteers utilize experiential learning

Focus on the learner for success.

Volunteers who process activities with young people are creating environments where learning is optimized. The experiential learning model focuses on the learner and has them actively engaged in the five steps of the process when implemented correctly. This article is the third in the series that helps you understand a bit more about the 4-H program. Previous articles included, “So I joined a 4-H club – now what?” and “What happens at a project meeting?

Project volunteers share research-based information with youth and work with them to apply the experiential learning model to their projects. This process allows youth to develop their analytical skills and gain confidence as they build expertise in their project areas. Youth benefit from this learning model regardless of their learning style. Benefits of this style include learning from others, taking responsibility for their own learning, sharing information with others and being able to relate their experiences to their lives.

It all starts when the learner experiences the activity; they are actively engaged in doing it. The processing of the experience is what moves the activity to a learning experience. As a leader, you can facilitate this by taking time to ask the right questions, listening and supporting youth in their experience. The next step is sharing, and it happens when participants can reflect on what they did, felt, saw, tasted, thought and heard. They can share what was easy, difficult or trying.

As you move into the processing step, the leader may ask questions that inquire about the procedures that were used, the issues that came up and how they problem solved. In the next step, we look more closely at what the experience meant to the participant and what they learned. This is a good time to ask what similar experiences they have had. The final step is to help them think about how this applies to their everyday lives. Why did we do this activity? When would these skills or this knowledge be important to you? When might this be helpful as you think about your future? Listening to the responses to these questions will also help you as the leader understand the concepts the participants are grasping and those that you may need to review.

Project meetings are a great place for these discussions to take place since they are the heart of project involvement many times. Time is focused, the volunteer has clear objectives with the member and members can learn from one another. As a project leaders, you will experience great satisfaction as your members grow in their projects and you see them develop into amazing young leaders.

To find out how you can be a project leader, check out our 4-H programs and connect with your Michigan State University Extension county office.

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