Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Do We Learn Through Results or Processes?

My education has always been in a lecture format; therefore, I was excited to discover that the education here is experiential based. Each experience leads to a lesson learned and knowledge gained. The knowledge I am gaining is through processing the experiences, which involves observing, questioning, and discussing.

During our various walks in the forest with guides including Alex, Orlando, and Kenneth, they grabbed plants and easily identified the type, its uses, and history of it; they would also scan their surroundings and find tiny amphibians such as the blue jean frog. Unfortunately, rather than truly observing and absorbing the knowledge, I focused on writing down descriptions and imagining how to memorize all of these facts (typical of what I do in school). Then I realized this is not the way I will be able to learn here. So, with the more walks I take, the less notes I write, and the more observant I become.

I can go for a walk in the silence now, observe nature as a living and breathing object around me, and truly see the differences of the plants and animals. While I may not know names or uses yet, I see them as living, therefore making it much easier to remember their unique characteristics.

From this, I have learned the value of questioning. Rather than simply noticing that two plants share similar characteristics, I choose to ask if my observations are correct and how I can further identify them. My aim is not to guess the correct name, but to understand the “how” or the process of determining the plant. Not only am I learning how to ask questions that lead to more questions, but also how to question respectfully. I realized I feared that I would seem ignorant if I asked about someone’s culture, but I was wrong. Bribri clan members, for example, appreciate the curiosity and want people to learn about their culture because it shows that others value communities different from their own.

Finally, discussing ideas or concepts that I may not necessarily agree with also challenges me and further expands my knowledge. In the indigenous community there are clearly defined roles for women, such as preparing the cacao drink. While I understand this does not undermine women, it does however confine them due to their gender. Being open to hearing how the roles are understood in the culture has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for why the system is set up in this way. In my journey thus far, I have found myself truly enjoying experiential learning and becoming more focused on gaining my education through the process than by the result.

Morgan Drew

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