Author Archives: Darien Ripple

Recreating Ancient Greek Ceramics



In the spring of 2015 Johns Hopkins University teamed up with Baltimore Clayworks to provide students with an experiential learning course that focused on researching and recreating ancient Greek ceramics. The course set out to put theory into practice. In the first few weeks of the course students learned about the historic significance of drinking cups to ancient Greek symposiums.   As the course developed students began working with clay while also observing the science that is involved in creating ancient ceramics. And finally, the students were asked to provide a finished product that replicated ancient works of art.   The only word that comes to mind as I explore the website documenting the students journey is WOW. This is truly an exciting example of experiential learning that needs to be shared and promoted.


Don’t Rely on Grades Alone by David Gooblar



Don’t Rely on Grades Alone by David Gooblar in Vitae on April 15, 2015 is a refreshing commentary on the merits of developing intrinsic motivation to get students to learn.  In my day-to day conversations with educators in an attempt to promote student-centered learning, in lieu of the “traditional” classroom lecture that was the status quo twenty years ago, I normally observe a slight hesitation.  Especially when it comes to “group work” which I prefer to call “team work” because the term sets a different tone in respect to work dynamics.   Critics of team work seem to be either concerned with grading such assignments or with the lack of participation that some times occurs with particular team members.  As the article points out, decades of research dismisses extrinsic rewards in the achievement of learning outcomes, and effective student participation depends on student motivation.  The key to effective team projects begins with course design and proper implementation.  Mr. Gooblar notes that the educator needs to “sell” such projects on the first day of class while reviewing the syllabus.  Educators need to spark an interested in the students to get them to want to learn.  This can be done by focusing on fascinating problems that intrigue students inviting further inquiry, but also by following up on assignments and putting the learning process in context to the course.  It is important to communicate the learning process to the students because it might not be something that at first appears intuitive.  Finally, the article concludes by reminding the reader of the importance of giving students ownership over the course and acknowledging a concern for their work.

Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve


Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve

Stacey Patton posted the question to various individuals associated with higher education on how to respond to a student requesting a grade change in a “C” paper because the student claimed to work very hard on the assignment. I was attracted to the article because the situation has seemed to become common in the past decade. I do not know if I am just getting older, or as the article suggests there seems to be a new generation of students that have a sense of academic entitlement. I am not going to lie, in that I found myself smiling and acknowledging some real truths regarding teaching and learning in the responses presented to the hypothetical “C” student, although at the same time the responses tended to be snarkish and condescending. In some ways the discourse revealed a clear divide in the lifeworlds of students and educators. A divide that should prompt institutions of higher education to further explore possible disconnects in the process of teaching and learning.

Work. Play. Profit


As I sipped my coffee, watched Sunday Morning on CBS, and glanced through the Business section of the Washington Post (how elitist does that sound?); I could not help but notice a photo of some surfers with the headline, Work. Play. Profit.   It turns out the article was about Patagonia the sportswear company that I was familiar with because of their socially aware ways of doing business. The article focused on Patagonia’s flexible work-life culture, which is an idea that caught my eye given that in the Office of Academic Innovation, we like to think creatively about ways to motivate individuals to learn. Work, or learning for what it is worth, ought not be looked at as Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill. The article went on to note that Patagonia employees were encouraged to bring their children to the on-site day-care center, have lunch at company picnic tables, and go surfing in the middle of the day.   The company’s relaxed climate has led to happier employees who are less willing to leave the company, while profits have tripled in the past 5 years. Interestingly enough our own Dean Bryan and Dr. Wilson explore similar ideas in their book Shaping Work-Life Culture in Higher Education, which was published this past year. So, the article is not exactly noting a new concept. But, the Washington Post article made me question why such progressive ideas like daycare, telecommuting, and flexible work weeks are not the norm, and 1940’s ideas of manufacturing still cling to the popular workplace paradigm even in progressive institutions.

A Grad Students’ Wonderings into Global Affairs & Wanderlust


A Grad Students’Wonderings into Global Affairs & Wanderlust

By: Janine Branch

My name is Janine Branch. I am a citizen diplomat, a change maker, a logistics coordinator, a mentor and coach, a trainer, a event planner, and a storyteller. This summer I traveled to Dominican Republic and Haiti for a experiential learning trip. I knew a long time ago from hearing stories from my grandmother of her worldly travels, that I wanted to travel through unique opportunities to be immersed into a different culture; educating my whole person through experience-based learning.

The primary purpose of my trip was to gain insight into the Haiti culture, with a short stop in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic to gain an understanding into the one island with two with worlds. After the day layover in Dominican Republic, I spent six days traveling to Cap-Haïtien, Port-au-Prince, Plaisance, and Labadee by way of bus, tap tap, and on foot throughout the country.

Traveling to Haiti was a rich, eye-opening, and perspective-building cultural experience. There is an awareness that is produced after an extensive experience (no matter how short), particularly when traveling to the developing world. The conditions of life most Americans get to enjoy—the immaculate streets, the broad array of stores, and the outright comfort of life, in my opinion, are taken for grated. And as another blogger, Tim Urban observes “suddenly the immense wealth of the First World is blatantly apparent everywhere you look and you remember that everyone you know lives like a king without realizing it.”

Despite the contrasts in values, there was a vibrancy and rhythm throughout the streets of Haiti. The beat was fast-paced, a structured chaos. The allure of dust kicking up from underneath tap-taps, piles of trash burning, mothers on the way to the market, the elitist traveling up the mountain to their mansions in Land Rovers, and men hustling to sell bags of water at the hottest part of the day. Even among the rhythm, varying levels of poverty were evident immediately as I crossed the border of Dominican Republic and Haiti. In the major towns and highways of Haiti; everything looks hungry – the mountains, the trash piles, the trees, goats, and people. The degradation of the land was very evident, and reflective of the tumultuous past of razing plantations after the slave revolt. Yet, the citizens of Haiti were proud of the valuables they have in possession. Laziness or taking a break was not an option or a way of thinking. Everyone had a hustle. Whether it was to sell water, shine shoes, suggesting restaurants, grounding cacao into powder, prostitution, or studying for school, etc. Everyone is doing something.

There are immeasurable observations that I made while I was in Haiti. Some of which I get to explore in my Individualized Study course, “Sustainable Development and Aid Effectiveness in Haiti.”Questions such as, why do women not drive? Where are the hospitals? Where does racism stem from and how does it affect global security? Where do donations really go? Why dont more blacks not travel or volunteer? Nonetheless, I realize there is so much to the world that I do not understand or have yet to learn. I am curious to explore these questions and more through the development of my curriculum.

The conclusion that I made, is that even with my resourcefulness – is that experiential learning is challenging. It is easy enough to travel the globe as a tourist, but it is not always easy to work and spend an extended time abroad so that you get to know another country in a way a tourist never does. While I was in Haiti, I was unable to gain the trust of the community members to due racial, cultural, and gender barriers. Or participate in the thorough volunteer experience that I desired, but I’ve learned how I want to contribute in the future. When I return to Haiti next summer, I would like to become involved in a sustainable development effort a cacao and vanilla processing farm and factory, called DeLaSol Haiti. I would like to fully integrating myself into the community –an opportunity that a typical vacation could never provide. By applying the educational philosophies and practical experiences gained in the work place and during graduate school–I hope to make a contribution to improve the lives of others. I am continually motivated by the responsibility to engage the rest of the world in a mutually beneficial dialogue.


University of Baltimore Experiential Learning Project of The Month


“Being allowed to have this opportunity has helped me change my negative views towards those who are incarcerated.”


Dr. Andrea Cantora

Course: Contemporary Corrections

The course included a 5-week pilot of the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is an opportunity for a small group of students from University of Baltimore and group of residents of the Jessup Correctional Institution to exchange ideas and perceptions about crime, corrections, and the reentry process.

Blueprint for Tomorrow


Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning by Prakash Nair ( be release this upcoming October. To get a better idea regarding the theme of this book I found a commentary by Prakash Nair in Education Week (July 2011). Nair’s basic argument is that the traditional classroom setting is an obsolete relic of the industrial revolution. This position is not a new or revolutionary claim, but a message that seems to need to be repeated because most colleges and universities seem to just keep constructing buildings that merely reinforce an obsolete paradigm that will not prepare students for real world challenges. The dominant pedagogy still adheres to a lecture based system. Nair makes the claim that educators can try to be more efficient in this type of content delivery, but that does not necessarily translate into effective learning. Standardizing curriculum does not necessarily create autonomous learners that can critically think and articulate their ideas. What I like about the article is that it does not present an either/or fallacy regarding classroom space, but instead challenges the reader to rethink how time and space intertwines with past and present experiences. For example, in the 21st century we seem to be trapped in thinking that learning needs to adhere to arbitrary fixed patterns of time in particular spaces, whereas we ought to think about the real purpose of education.

A Bridge to Belize – Experiential Learning


Tricia Sindel-Arrington, Ph.D.

A Bridge to Belize – Almost as Good as a Magic School Bus
John Dewey has been noted as saying, “There is a need of forming a theory of experience in order that education may be intelligently conducted upon the basis of experience.” Recent efforts to improve higher education have focused on improving the learning process in education through the application of research. One focus of the current research is the concept of experiential learning. Experiential learning is often misunderstood as a set of tools and techniques to provide learners with experiences from which they can learn. Others have used the term to describe learning as a mindless recording of experience. Yet experiential learning is above all a philosophy of education based upon what Dewey called a “theory of experience,” (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). He argued that while traditional education had little need for theory since practice was determined by tradition, the new experiential approach to education needed a sound theory of experience to guide its conduct. Experiential learning draws on the work of 20th century scholars, such as, Dewey, Lewin, Jung, Piaget, James, Rogers, etc., who gave experience a central role in their theories of human learning and development.
According to Kolb and Kolb (2005), the theory is built upon six propositions: 1. Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes; 2. All learning is relearning; 3. Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world; 4. Learning is a holistically process of adaptation to the world; 5. Learning results from synergetic transactions between the person and the environment; 6. Learning is the process of creating knowledge. Therefore, experiential learning theory defines learning as the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Kolb and Kolb (2005) noted that knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience. This process of learning can be portrayed through an idealized learning cycle where learners experience, reflect, think and act in a recursive process that is responsive to the learning situation and what is being learned.
The enhancement of learning in higher education can be achieved through the creation of learning spaces that promote growth-producing experiences for learners. According to Dewey, the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences. To learn experientially, learners must first own and value their own experience (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). Therefore, the effective teacher builds on the exploration of what students already know and believe. Beginning with these or related concrete experiences allows the learner to re-examine and modify their previous sense making in light of the new ideas.
To learn also requires facing and embracing differences. These differences can be challenging and threatening, requiring a learning space that encourages the expression of differences and the safety to support the learner in facing these new challenges. People grow best where they experience a blend of challenge and support.
One interesting view of experiential learning is what Wassermann (1992) calls “serious play.” She describes serious play as creative and inventive activities that promote autonomy and a spirit of adventure, and that achieve mental engagement through active involvement with the physical world. Serious play is built on experience, and is inextricably linked to it. Wassermann believes that learners of all ages create meaning through serious play (Harkins, 2000). The goal of education is to prepare students for the future. A curriculum that places its greatest emphasis on abstract paper and pencil tasks will not provide them an adequate preparation. What students need is to develop work-readiness skills through the integration of knowledge acquisition and its practical application, a process that should start in the early grades. An education that will effectively prepare young people for future careers is one that connects the world of childhood play and the adult workplace within the context of experiential learning. Experiential tasks build higher-order thought patterns by providing data for knowledge assimilation and the accommodation of cognitive structures.
The Bridge to Belize study abroad program embodies the essential elements necessary for students to have a rich learning experience. The program is a perfect example of experiential learning. Commonly, most college classes task students to work in isolation, often completing assignments that have little relation to their daily lives and pursuing academic disciplines that are ends unto themselves. Most professors only ask their students to regurgitate information from an expensive text instead of making their course alive and rich with experience opportunities. In the Bridge to Belize, novels and academic articles were used as a springboard for learning. Students were asked not only to understand and dissect the reading, but to analyze, reflect, and discuss with teams of classmates. Safe, conversational spaces were created throughout the course where students could benefit enormously. Students were more engaged, became far better prepared, and learned significantly more because they shared not only their ideas, but also listened and connected with others throughout multiple spaces created for reflection. Students were asked to engage through Facebook, Skype, bus rides, and outdoor meeting spaces as a means of conversational safe places where each person had an opportunity to share and feel validated.
Important terms and key concepts were learned through reading, discussion, experiences, observations, and travel. In a traditional class, students read a boring text filled with vocabulary (pertinent concepts and terms necessary to learn the curriculum). Usually, they are then tasked with memorizing the terms in order to answer multiple choice test questions. Unfortunately, a week later, the students will have most likely forgotten the terms entirely because no meaning was ever made with the terms. The students were learning in isolation without the means of experiencing the concepts. They did not have the opportunity to connect the class concepts with real life or to make connections with other subjects or experiences. Dr. James Gee notes that students must first “play the game,” then they can make sense of the vocabulary or concepts associated with the textbook (2007). In order for the students in the Bridge to Belize course to make meaning they had to “play the game.” The group traveled to Belize whereupon they were immersed in the culture and landscape. Activities which showcased the different ecosystems, culture, and history of the country further helped students to experience everything they had read and discussed before leaving for Belize. Afterwards, not only did the students have a thorough understanding of the concepts, but they were able to apply the ideas to their own lives. Learners were able to transfer the interpreted experiences and explanations of other people, including both peers and experts in the field. This social interaction, as well as, mentoring from more advanced learners was important. The debriefing further continued their meaning making. Students were constantly challenged to think and rethink their previous and new beliefs.
Team building was acutely important for students to make meaning of their learning while experiencing Belize. The course required students to work in teams, whereupon they were necessitated to apply their newfound knowledge in learning tasks, which either required students to teach the entire class or to conduct an actual evaluation of the conservation and sustainability of their lodging. These types of student learning teams have proven to be highly effectively. For example, in a study of student learning at Harvard, Richard Light (2001) found specifically that students, who work outside of class in small groups of four to six, even just once a week, benefit enormously. When meetings are organized around discussions of the curriculum, as a result those students are far more engaged, far better prepared, and learn significantly more (Kayes, Kayes, & Kolb, 2005).
The Bridge to Belize course serves as a real-life model of a successful experiential learning course. Not only did it encompass the required elements needed to create a positive learning experience for students, but it further validates that educators need to rethink their lecture formatted courses where a textbook serves as the hallmark of the class. If the goal of a college education is to create well-rounded, open minded critical thinkers who are prepared to work with teams in the workplace, then more experiential learning courses should be constructed.

A Bridge to Belize 2014



As the Experiential Learning Program Manager at the University of Baltimore, I sometimes find myself thinking how odd it is that I now spend most of my days wearing a button down shirt, dress pants, and sometimes a tie and/or jacket in order to work in an office and attend meetings. It is a far cry from my days of wearing short pants, boots, and a t-shirt and taking students out to the Chandler Gilbert Community College Environmental Technology Center to learn about sustainability and environmental ethics. I think that is why this year the Bridge to Belize study abroad tended to take on more of a personal meaning. I felt back at home working with my Belizean friends to teach students about sustainability and cultural diversity by exploring caves, climbing ruins, visiting gardens and snorkeling coral reefs. It was exciting to watch University of Baltimore students experiencing a number of firsts while studying in Belize. A first trip to Central America, horseback ride through the rainforest, snorkeling at Laughing Bird Caye, and so on. Opportunities that served as prefect trigger mechanisms to better understand the theoretical concepts such as being a responsible traveller, respecting other cultures and the importance of ecological preservation. I have written qualitative research papers demonstrating the transformational process of experiential learning, although the actual experience of observing students getting excited about active learning is so much more rewarding. It was nice getting out of the office…


A Bridge to Belize 2014 – Mountain Equestrian Trails


A Bridge to Belize 2014 – Mountain Equestrian Trails

Horse Back Riding and Biological Diversity

Horse back riding is just as much as a rite of passage in Belize as a teenager learning how to drive in the US. Though horse back riding in the States consist of jumping on the back of a horse and going around a man made forest in circles, Belize’s definition of riding a horse consists of maneuvering a huge creature through jungle terrain. Seeing as I have never rode a horse in my life, I was terrified of engaging in this experience. Their large size and massive leg power have always intimidated me. When I got onto Sota (my horse), he instantly felt my tense nature and proceeded to show me that he was expert. I literally was riding Sota as he gently walked and trotted with pride. One of the many ways that this riding lesson differed than the typical US horseback riding sessions is that we had to guide our horses up and down hills. The trails were not well defined, pretty much covered in both poisonous, as well as medicinal plants. The biological diversity between the plants and animals that call the forest their home is evidently visible. Everything in the forest works together in order to get what it needs. For instance, our guide was telling us about a symbiotic relationship between a special kind of ant and plant. This plant provides the ant with shelter and food and in turn, the ant will sacrifice its life in order to protect the plant from predators. This symbiotic relationship should not only apply to plant and animal relationships but to human interactions. The more we help each other out the more we get out of life.

Tkeyah Lake

2014 Graduate