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Meaning and process in experiential education: the wilderness expedition as a rite of passage Andrews, Kenneth Brian


This paper explores the wilderness expedition as a personal rite of passage - as a process of transition from society through liminality and back to society again. Through analytical discussions interwoven with narrative-descriptive passages and extensive quotations from expedition participants, this anthropological study of the wilderness expedition illuminates the underlying process of separation, transition/liminality, and reincorporation, focusing upon, as Victor Turner suggests, the meaningful experiences of personal transformation embedded within the liminal (or transitional) phase. Examining the expedition as a quintessential form of experiential education, we begin with the question: 'what do students learn from the expedition experience?' 'what do they come to know?'. Beneath all the explicit lessons in outdoor skills, natural history, leadership, and teamwork, participants also come to know an intense experience of communitas - a sense of self, a sense of community, and a sense of place - from which they return to society empowered by renewed creative energy, an expanded worldview, and a greater sense of hope.

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