Broadly speaking, experiential learning is learning through doing – the learner is an active participant in the educational process, not a passive witness to it. The content, idea or concept being pursued must be largely relevant to the learner. Any activity must also invoke a strong emotional reaction on the part of the learner (how strong must the emotions be for a child who finally commits to falling off their bike another 20 times so they finally ‘get it’?). This whole process then prompts reflection, change and action – in the form of new skills, attitudes, mindsets or practices.

By nature, experiential learning can happen everywhere, but is perhaps most recognisable to parents of young children. This might be in the form of a tour through a national park or zoo, a science centre or library with a hands-on section or time spent with a grandparent in the garden. All of which are experiences we have all connected our children with, and through which action prompts the acquisition of skills, knowledge and emotions.

Example Teaching Ideas

‘Pass it on’ – 5 min

This simple activity looks at how easily disease/infections can be spread.

This example can be used to demonstrate how STI’s can be spread among people, and how the risk of a STI can be reduced.


  • Ice breaker cards. 1- ‘x’ 1- ‘y’ 1- ‘z’ 2- ‘c’ 2- ‘do not shake anyone’s hand’, the rest- ‘shake 5 hands’.


  1. Distribute a card to each student. Tell them to keep the card and instructions a secret.
  2. Ask the group to move around the room and shake hands with 3 different people and return to their seats.

After the Activity

  1. Ask the students with cards labelled x, y & z to stand up. Explain to them they (imaginarily) have HIV, chlamydia and genital herpes. Then ask any student who shook their hands to stand up as rather than ‘shaking hands’ they partook in sexual activity. Proceed to ask any students who shook the hands of those with the x, y & z cards to stand up, those who shook hands with anyone standing up etc.
  2. Explain that the two people who did not shake anyone hands had chosen to abstain from any sexual activity and are not at risk of any STI, and the people with cards marked ‘c’ used a condom and were not at significant risk of infection. Everyone else who stood up, sadly you have an STI and may not even know.
  3. If needed, depending on those involved, remind the group that this was only a game, that they were only representing people who have STIs and that STIs are not transmitted through handshaking. Explain that STDs are diseases that are spread by close sexual contact between two partners. Any form of intercourse—oral, anal or vaginal—can spread STIs.

You may like to have a discussion afterwards to discuss disease/infections spread and how participants felt when they found out found out that they had a disease they were unaware of, recieved a disease ect.

Possible Variations

This could be altered slightly to fit your context. e.g.

  • instead of STI’s, the x, y & z cards could be common infections in a hospital
  • the c cards could be those that washed their hands correctly
  • the do not shake hands cards could be those who had proper body substance isolation (gloves, face mask etc)

Greetings Activity

This activity can be used to demonstrate diversity of cultures, and the importance of learning other cultures to help ensure that differences do not cause us to insult people from other cultures.

Greeting others

  • Individually, students are allocated a greeting card. Students review their card without showing anyone else in the group.
  • Students circulate within the group and greet at least 3 people using their greeting. Allow about 5 minutes for students to mix and greet others.
  • NOTE: It is important to advise students they can opt out at any time. Some greetings may be viewed as invasive.


Possible Variations

Add reactions to greetings/how people respond to your greeting.

e.g. Have the participants be insulted if the other person does not follow their greeting.

  • Greeting “Shake hands formally and firmly with everyone you meet. Look them straight in the eye.” Reaction “people who do not return the eye contact is viewed as a serious insult and you would behave as accordingly”
  • Greeting “Nod at the other person, looking at them in the face.” Reaction “anyone who tries to initiate contact would be viewed as a serious insult and invasion of your space, avoid contact with others and become insulted/angry with those that try to initiate/make contact with you”

Add other greetings

If you were examining specific cultures, using the specific greetings from those cultures would help to enhance the activity. Some examples are below

Greeting Country/Culture

Shake hands formally and firmly with everyone you meet. Look them straight in the eye.


Nod at the other person, looking at them in the face.

Press your cheek to the other person’s cheek whilst holding both of their hands.

Bow with your hands touching your sides.

Japan – People greet each other with a bow in Japan. The problem is that their bows differ in angle and duration depending on the person they’re greeting.

Step close, toe to toe, and say “Hello how are you? My name is…” (and start talking).

Touch your nose to the other person’s nose while holding their shoulders.

Kiss three times – on alternate cheeks.

Russia –  It is considered gallant to kiss women three times while alternating cheeks, and even to kiss hands.

Hug the other person warmly.

Bow with both of your hands in prayer position, palms together.

Thailand: Wai

Kiss the air on either side of the persons face. Do not touch any part of their body.

Touch the other person’s forehead with your right hand and then touch your own.

Press the nose and upper lip against the cheeks or forehead of the other person and breath in, causing the other person’s skin or hair to be suctioned against the nose and upper lip.

Greenland: Kunik

Take one of their hands gently and press it on your forehead.

Philippines: “Mano”

Press your noses and foreheads together and look at each other’s eyes

New Zealand: Hongi

Press cheeks together and simultaneously inhale


Stretch out your hands and touch the other person’s fingertips and then bring your hands to your heart.

Malaysia – This symbolizes that they’re greeting you from their hearts.

Greetings and Customs Around the World


What is the Experiential Learning Cycle?