The Experiential Learning Committee celebrated the end of its pilot year of experiential learning and teaching grants last Thursday, hearing presentations from some of the faculty recipients.

In the past academic year, 17 recipients were awarded sums between $50 and $5,000 to incorporate experiential learning elements both in and out of the classroom. The grants were awarded on a rolling basis throughout the year, with a two- to four-week turnaround between proposal submission and final decision.

“One of the ideas we saw is that they [the faculty] could apply when needed. … And so we came up with the grant idea as a way to support them,” said Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching Daniel Langenthal in an interview with the Justice.

According to the Experiential Learning website, the grants are intended to support the four principles of experiential learning in teaching: authenticity, relevancy, connection to future opportunities and active learning. They also contribute to the three experiential learning student goals: agency, belonging and competency.

The criteria for the grants was deliberately left open in the program’s pilot year, Assistant Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching Alyssa Canelli said in a phone interview with the Justice. “We wanted to spark creativity,” she said, adding, “One of our big criteria was really, ‘How is this going to affect the learning outcomes of students, and how is it connected to the content of the course?’ One of the things we’re trying to avoid or trying to get away from is the idea that experiential learning is just a field trip or just some experience outside the classroom, because you can have an experience, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll learn from it.”

As the grant enters its second year, the challenge is to keep the classroom change going despite the individual grants being a one-time deal, she said. “Our big goal is to work toward making a lot of these changes in teaching methods, changes in course design, more sustainable,” Canelli said.

Langenthal also noted that there is something to be said for the trial and error that comes with a new program: “It’s an opportunity to encourage faculty members to take risks and try new things in their teaching that they might not try, typically, and support them in that process,” he said.

—Editor’s note: Michelle Dang, the Justice News editor, sits on the Experiential Learning Committee. She did not take part in the editing of this article.