Experiential Learning

Whether an outdoor expedition into the wilderness, an exchange program to a foreign country, or a technology-assisted “virtual” interaction with students from an unfamiliar culture, experiential learning is a powerful key to shifting perspectives and changing the lives of both teachers and students. Indeed, it is a countervailing force against the malais of a society whose institutions, including its educational system, have a tendency to divorce learning from any application in the real world.

But to have full impact, experiential learning must be done right. A deep understanding of intent must be developed, staff must be trained, cultural and geographical boundaries must be navigated, and lessons must be integrated as learners move back into more familiar classroom settings. Above all, risks must be managed, as crafting the right balance between risk and safety is the fine art of experience-based, immersive learning.

BGI and its founder John Braman offer unparalleled expertise in helping schools and colleges bring learning to life by leading students out of the conventional classroom and into the “real world” in a safe and impactful way. Our services include the following:

Managing Risk

Real risk is an inherent part of experiential learning, but does not have to translate into real injury or harm. BGI founder John Braman has led thousands of children and adults into unfamiliar environments across the world – without a single incident of serious injury.

  • Established safety guidelines for sail training aboard the official tall ship of the Commonweath of Massachusetts.
  • Managed compliance with State Department standards for homestays with international students in U.S. and abroad.
  • Directed safety during a Himalayan mountaineering expedition
  • Oversaw safety in outdoor education programs at Thompson Island Outward Bound and Albuquerque Academy’s Bear Canyon Project

“The way you deal with risk is you have a competent staff that is thorough in planning and consistent in supervision. John is very competent. He knows his environment like the back of his hand.”

– Joe Nold, former director Outdoor Programs, United World College, New Mexico

Program Development

As the field of “global education” grows increasingly complex, it is vital for school leaders to sort out the language, underlying concepts and implied or explicit values of this content area. Without clarifying meanings and purposes, people run the risk of talking past each other and developing strategies that don’t match the unique goals and resources of a particular school or college. BGI’s trademark is a listening process that screens for institutional assets, core values, and desired learning outcomes, according to the Four M matrix.

  • Led a strategic planning process for Brown University, resulting in a mission statement, goals, and identification of core competencies for Brown’s global programs in Northern Ireland, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and Costa Rica.
  • Worked with Hotchkiss School to clarify desired learning outcomes for the rollout of a breakthrough leadership development program for Ivy League freshmen and independent school students.
  • Developed a strategic plan for mission-extending, revenue-enhancing ancillary programs at a prominent Connecticut independent school, including a repurposing of the campus for summertime programs, global studies programs, and public purpose initiatives.

“BGI helped us move away from the traditional model for independent schools into a place of more innovative, entrepreneurial and creative thinking. The clarity we gained from the John’s listening process was amazing, and the attention to budgetary realities will help us gain broad support for innovative ideas.”

– Associate Head of a Top Tier Independent School

Program Design and Leadership

When it comes to launching new initiatives aimed at building the brand and enhancing revenues, it’s important to get it right the first time. Often, this depends on a design that is financially realistic, fierce execution of an implementation plan, and outcomes that are relevant to organizational goals and measureable. BGI offers turnkey services that can assure success and jumpstart organizational capacity.

  • Designed a unique experiential curriculum for Global Leadership Forum, hired and trained a specialized staff, recruited students from 17 countries, directed the successful rollout, provided a program evaluation, and then guided United World College-USA through a process of bringing program operations in-house.
  • Designed the 3-year program sequence for Global Youth Leadership Institute, developed risk management protocols, hired and trained a specialized staff, organized a coalition of independent school sponsors, and developed strategic partnerships in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Established an interdisciplinary program for both cognitive and non-cognitive learning at Albuquerque Academy, including service learning, ecology studies, creative writing, leadership development, homestays with indigenous people, and expeditionary learning.

“The evidence for the impact of the GLF approach is impressive. In pre- and post-surveys, there were increases in every content area, including conflict resolution skills, intercultural leadership skills, collaborative leadership skills, overcoming stereotypes, critical thinking, media skills, and innovation skills.”

– Catherine Grace O’Neill, co-author with Michael Thompson of “Best Friends, Worst Enemies”