I have a personal philosophy: all skills are learned and anyone can learn a skill. This doesn’t mean that everyone masters a skill easily, but that we all have the capacity to learn what we need or want to know. Learning skills happens in all kinds of formats; sometimes we need direct instruction, sometimes we need experience and reflection, and sometimes we need social interaction. Often we need all of these formats together.
Learning the skills to operate a longboat during a Pacific Northwest fall provides a unique learning experience. We get to learn and practice skills every week on all kinds of levels.
We might start with direct instruction on rowing- with a captain or student who has mastered the skill teaching it step by step to the rest of the crew. Then we get to head out on the water, using our new rowing skills and working through the experience. How do I use my body in the most efficient way (to row a fairly inefficient vessel)? Where do I need to focus my attention in order to stay in synch with those around me? What happens when I start to get tired? How do I manage my frustration when someone next to me keeps hitting my oar with theirs? How much warmer would my fingers be if I had chosen to wear gloves?
At the end of each class, we honor the experiential learning cycle (experience, reflect, conceptualize, experiment) by reflecting on our time together. By sharing what we learned, what challenged us and what we want to continue learning, we build teamwork and group knowledge. And together we become a community of skilled rowers, competent sailors, and mariners who remember to wear gloves in the winter!