An Approach to Experiential Learning

Education has been a topic that has always fascinated me. Moreover when I had kids, watching them grow made me wonder how their mind work.

As I love reading, naturally I started finding for the best resources that is available for early childhood learning. Names like Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, John Holt, Peter Gary and Sir Ken Robinson became my mentors. I devoured their works thorough their books. That's when I truly realised, what I knew of learning is totally different from how a child's mind absorb. Their neurones are built upon sensory experiences, attention and bonding given by caregivers, communication with loved ones, and one of the vital factor, free and unstructured play. As their mind flourishes, their learning needs grow.

After a solid foundation, their thirst of knowledge can be quenched by experiential learning. It is defined by, learning through reflection of doing. Most of what we do is theory based and hands-on learning. This lacks the reflection upon the impact of what we learn or do. We learn and execute without reflecting on the consequences of our action. Thus the learning process is somewhat incomplete. True learning occurs when we reflect and ponder upon what we do and judge the impact and sustainability of the thought processes involved.

One example of a great experiential learning tool is 'Design for Change' model, FIDS. It encompasses Feel, Imagine, Do, and Share.

In Feel, the children learn to identify problems, and also listen to issues that bothers their friends. The idea is to put the children in the lead and ask them about issues in the surroundings that bothers them and they wish they can bring upon a change. Upon brainstorming, they learn mindfulness and empathy. They can proceed to take a vote of one common problem that they all agree upon. They also need to think of stakeholders that are affected by this problem and proceed to interview them to get their point of view in the issue. I personally love this part of the process. Before thinking of solutions to a problem, our mind should focus on people that are affected or involved directly and get their opinion. This will help the children to brainstorm solutions with reflection.

Next, is Imagine. Now, they have to list down various solutions that they think is possible to solve the issue that they are bothered about. Teamwork is certainly a highlight here. Again, a voting of the best solution is done and they can proceed to Do.

This is when the action takes place. In Do, they start implementing their solution and then, share their efforts with others.

Sharing their project, be it in print media or social media, is how they can inspire others to follow suit and replicate their solutions.

When I stumbled upon this interesting FIDS model, I decided to give it a try. It was used to enter a I CAN School Challenge by Design For Change. I encouraged my daughter and her two friends to join this challenge just to try out the FIDS model of experiential learning.

They brainstormed and decided on the problem of rubbish found in nature parks. We picked a park that we frequent often, Taman Tugu Nursery Park. The children proceeded to interview the park cleaners. They got to know that there are no rubbish bins throughout the park trails as to avoid rubbish to be eaten by the animals in the parks, such as monkeys and birds. So how do we solve the issue of throwing rubbish in the park if we can't place rubbish bins inside. They brainstormed and picked the solution of passing re-usable bags to park-goers at the entrance of the trail. The park-goers can use the bag to throw their litter and also pick and store any litter they see, eventually emptying them in the bin at the end of the trail. Thus, their team name, Make it Clean, Make it Green was coined. They have tried to keep the park clean in a greener way, by using the re-usable bags.

But, they were not satisfied. They reflected upon their solution, and proceeded to interview the park-goers and found out that some re-usable bags are big and difficult to carry during walks. Children are less inclined to pick up the rubbish as they can be wet or stuck to the ground. This lead to more reflection on their previous solution and they proceeded to upgrade their idea to foldable re-usable bags and litter picking sticks.

Our team approached several environmental NGO's such as Global Environment Centre (GEC) and Nature Education Centre (NEC), Malaysian Nature Society.The kids pitched their ideas and both the organisation were indeed very supportive. The kids launched their first project at FRIM as a collaborative effort with the team of NEC naturalists. We purchased all our items needed for clean-up through crowdfunding, via NGOhub and managed to do a river clean-up with a team of 40 children and parents, with the cost of RM 270. We successfully cleared almost 10kg of waste from the stream at FRIM jungle. This lead to more awareness among the children and parents that participated in the activity. Now, the team is ready to tackle more outreach projects and river clean-ups at nature parks with a team of volunteers as kids are easily inspired by actions with an impact. The team has many upcoming environmental projects lined up even beyond the competition, because impactful projects should always continue and be sustainable.

Through this whole project, they learned that a small effort can cause a big impact to their cause if we all work together. At a young and tender age, they gained the experience of idea pitching and crowdfunding for an environmental cause. Through experiential learning, sustainable and civic conscious projects can be taught to children, and the impact to the community and environment is priceless.

I hope through this effort of sharing this FIDS model, more teachers, parents, and children can benefit. Further information on FIDS model can be found in

Let's help to make the world a better place, by starting to educate our children on civic consciousness and environmental conservation. The best way of learning these is through experiential learning or 'learning through reflection of doing. '