The Association for Experiential Education defines the methodology of experiential education as a hands-on form of learning that begins with a concrete experience. After solving a problem, learners reflect on the process and are able to apply lessons more broadly to their lives.

The Association for Experiential Education defines the methodology of  experiential education as a hands-on form of learning that begins with a concrete experience. After solving a problem, learners reflect on the process and are able to apply lessons more broadly to their lives. 

Adventure and challenge are at the heart of the experiential learning experience as they push the learner or students out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone where the greatest education gains can occur. The activities are carefully crafted by the teachers to provide the appropriate level of challenge for a group or individual. 

While experiential education might be a new concept to some, the group of 20-some Camdenton High School students who just spent 15 days ”experiencing” a camping and backpacking trip to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, it was the trip of a lifetime. 

“Experiential Education is one of the new buzz-words in education,” said Chris Reeves, head of the Science Department at Camdenton High School. Reeves was the organizer and instructor on the trip for the 22 students who made the trip. 

Reeves and the students hiked and backpacked over 50 miles and were able to experience some of the best scenery in the world.  

Along the way, the hikers encountered included several grizzly bears (two were way too close for comfort), a black bear, marmot,  mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and countless other rare birds and mammals.  

The highlight of the trip was a 5-day ,34 mile backpack to Berg Lake and Mount Robson in Canada's Jasper National Park.  This site has been designated by the United Nationals as a World Heritage site and is one of the most well-preserved examples of an alpine lake and accompanying glacier.  

Climate change is in the process of causing the glacier to recede by several feet per year and will sadly cause the glacier to fully melt in the students lifetimes.  While at the alpine campground students were able to hear pieces of the glacier 'calving' off of the main glacier and falling into the lake, Reeves said.  

“This, in addition to the distant rumble of avalanches off of the mountain, gave an eerie feel to the campsite after dark.  We were also very lucky to be able to share the campsite with another school group of Canadian high school students which also happened to be an IB (International Baccalaureate) school,” Reeves said.” Having the opportunity to watch our students sit around the campfire and talk about the similarities and differences between the two countries was super fun.  It was also very rewarding for me to get the opportunity to make new teacher friends from another IB school.  In fact, the group leader was an IB Chemistry teacher.This teacher recently posted on his school's social media site that the highlight of this years trip for their group was getting to make new friends with their 'neighbors to the South.”

Students were also able to experience what is was like to hike with expert guides several miles on a glacier in a driving snow storm, participate in whitewater rafting, and take classes from experts on rock climbing.  

The basecamp where the group stayed was in the same valley as several scenes of the movie, "The Revenant' were filmed.  Students were also “fortunate enough” to meet up with two different grizzly bears on a trail while hiking at Glacier National Park . The bear happened to be using the same trail but going in the opposite direction.  Having a full-grown grizzly walk within 15 yards of you is a very humbling experience to say the least, Reeves said.  

“Being able to share this amazing experience with students has been one of the highlights of my professional career. Students gain so much from these experiences and along the way, add to their ecological, cultural and geological understanding of the world. Students also make life-long friendships along the way and will graduate from CHS with experiences that will follow them throughout their lives.”