Experiential Learning in the 21st Century: Personal Reflections and Insights from Burning Man


  • J. Duane Hoover


"ABSEL scholars have been illuminating the path to effective experiential learning for over 40 years. This journey of intellectual and theoretical exploration, paired with a sound foundation focusing on effective application, continues into the 21st century. However, social and technological changes, coupled with cultural changes and the characteristics of Millennial Generation students, makes this 21st century task more challenging than ever. One possible source of insight relevant to this challenge comes from the 28 year-old socially innovative and culturally revolutionary Burning Man Project. Burning Man has become a unique cultural institution and a world-wide movement. It has spawned a set of guidelines called the 10 Principles of Burning Man, as well as generating numerous unique behavioral and social practices. This paper will begin with a history of whole-person experiential learning, followed by an explanation and analysis of several of the somewhat institutionalized aspects of Burning Man. The paper concludes with an integration of whole-person experiential learning and Burning Man practices with an eye towards implications relevant to 21st century education and the ABSEL mission therein. DISCLAIMER: The reader should note that the content of this paper is sourced in the individual opinions and experiences of the author. The descriptions and frameworks discussed herein are the sole product of the author’s insights and/or shortcomings, and are not to be interpreted as a position of the Burning Man Project or as a reflection of the educational and training programs conducted under the auspices and control of the Burning Man Project. "