Intense Learning Experiences

Intense learning experiences are my favorite; pushing into an area where all senses are heightened, learning by doing.

Today, I was able to provide such an opportunity. Every Thursday morning, I take a group of high school kids paddling outrigger canoes on the ocean. We have been playing it safe in the gorge where most of the time it is glassy like a calm lake. Now, I want to take them out into the strait. The strait is far more gnarly; there are a host of other factors to deal with, like waves. It is easier to flip and they have to know what to do — especially in a 6 person canoe that weighs 600 pounds — 900 pounds when it gets flipped over and filled with water.

So, today we did a huli (flip the boat and get back in). It was an intense learning experience for the kids. We lean right, away from alma, and boom, in a flash, we are all in cold ocean water. In seconds, everyone’s adrenaline is racing. Michael, one of our coaches, immediately barks orders. Count off…1…2…3…4…5…6…One kid starts panicking. I honestly thought that we were going to have to swim him back to the docks. We finally calmed him down and after a few attempts, flipped the boat back over. One person in at a time, start bailing! 20 scoops = 1 more person in the boat. I am the last one in and my teeth are chattering.

The body and brain go into survival mode. It is good to see. Most of the time, I just see students hunched over computers all day, sitting in their safe, comfortable spots. This can, and usually does, get habitual. I want to shake them out of it: work as a team in an intense situation. Because it feels so great when done; there is a strong sense of accomplishment.