Hello there. I have had an incredibly hectic time last spring, being involved in training all across Europe (and beyond), and busy with a couple of writing projects. Time for blogging was a little bit scarce. I am sooo lagging behind with my writing schedule! And boy, do I have a few stories to tell.
So, this is me now trying to catch up with the first story, from April 2018.
Natural Elements is the name of the Erasmus+ training course we organized in April 2018. It’s the spiritual successor of “Special Effects“, a concept for a training for trainers we have successfully delivered several times, and always with great
modesty success. Basically, it is a training for trainers who already have some experience in the field, and now want to brush up their basics and get a deeper understanding of how experiential learning works – plus get some “Special Effects” along the way.
What are these? Our team’s signature specialties are elements one can’t learn in school. Things like working with nature and its cycles, including myth and storytelling in experiential learning, and a touch of spirituality.
The result is a quite unique experience that blends a solid training for trainers rooted in the principles of non formal and experiential learning, with some extra inspiration and sometimes, unexpected and possibly crazy twists. The team, once more, was made by Bára Rodi, Honza Latal, and yours truly (I hope you know me by now!).
This time, thanks to the involvement of our Polish partners at Projects Instytut Wschodnich Inicjatyw and the Georgian youth association Droni we were able to host the course in Georgia (not the U.S. one, I am talking about the older one). I was very excited since it was my first time in the Caucasus area – and it won’t certainly be the last! – and I had a lot to discover. Mostly… positive.
We were hosted at the Scout centre in Rustavi, a nice, modern facility with everything we needed for the training, and the strong sense of a development project that is actively doing something for the land and the community around it. I was already friend with the managers, and it has been nice to see in person the quality of their work.
So, the course. Our program included strong basic components, so our participants could refresh their knowledge or gain new insight on topics like program design, group dynamics, debriefing and facilitation. Sometimes with an unexpected twist! Like that time when I started to treat really bad everybody, including a couple of direct insults… to show how facilitation should NOT be done!
Regardless, it felt liberating.
Then, we moved on to include more and more contributions from our participants. This is the time when Ucha offered a team building activity to the group,
That revolved around the idea that “if you want to make an omelette, you need to break a few eggs”. This gave us a nasty idea for a possible follow up activity.
And let’s leave it at that. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for people who might join future editions of the course. Let’s just say that it involved conflict (yeah, lots of it), physical confrontation, injustice, leadership, team work and… throwing eggs at each other. Lots of eggs.
The reflection phase that followed was
scary exciting. Talk about storming phase! That was our walk to the wild side. And thanks goodness the group will never know what was our plan B for that day.
Well, someone knows.
But hey, as they say, there is no other way to experiential learning than… experiencing things. And so we did. Again, the old omelette thing.
But the program wasn’t only about breaking eggs.
It included a lot of outdoor sessions, exploring natural cycles and their impact on people,
including possible ways to use them in education and learning,
and as in all the previous editions, a strong part completely focused on participants and their inputs. Divided in small groups in an (almost) random way – this time we used a pretty nifty game to create the teams! – participants had to invent, design and run a 90 minutes session for their peers, based on principles and methods of experiential learning.
That was GREAT! And probably the peak of our experience with the group. Everybody performed at their best, and many great quality inputs were provided.
A bit of a “final challenge” for the group if you like, but every good story needs tension, and so did we.
Admittedtly, some more strange looking than others.
The offerings were very diverse, and included concepts like threshold walk, Council, acro-yoga,
theater work, and an interesting experiment to simulate what happens when there is a conflict in the team of trainers. (Answer: a long meeting).
The course also featured a funny and fairy-taley version of the Hero’s Journey,
which nevertheless featured some scary encounters:
And I am very happy to say, we also managed to do some volunteering around the area, to leave the place a little bit better (hopefully!) than we found it.
Yeah, about that. Georgia is a place of contrasts. The Soviet era left its scars, and it’s taking time to heal. Some of the city landscapes still look like they survived a zombie apocalypse. And maybe they did. But this is not what defines Georgia, and certainly not the Georgians.
The people I have met there are active, jovial and full of life. There is a sense of realism and, even if things aren’t easy, a prudent optimism about the future. This certainly shows in and around Tbilisi. The city is changing, and fast. Walking in its streets, it becomes clear how the place has been at a crossroads of civilizations and cultures for, like, EVER. Placed on the Great Silk Road and at the doorstep of Europe, it’s a place of countless legends and stories.
Tradition, history, religion walk hand in hand with modernity in Tbilisi,
which today is a vibrant and exciting city – I was particularly impressed by its busy nightlife. Ah yes, and the crazy traffic. Like, really bonkers, I mean suicidal crazy. And in fact, we got involved in a freaky
accident situation that I can’t describe, in case my Mom is reading.
And I even had the pleasure of appearing as a guest comedian in one of the local stand-up shows!
The comedy scene in English is blooming right now, but I found a great, electric energy in the air. People (expats and locals alike) were so eager to laugh, especially at any local reference! The atmosphere in the room at Fabrika was really exciting. That is definitely a good sign. Keep up with the good work, friends at the Stand-Up Tbilisi!
So, yeah, that’s about it. We went home definitely enriched from the experience, with a few great stories to tell (like, that time when we entered a natural reserve that was so close to the border with Azerbaijan we could actually end up trespassing – and we almost lost the group), and warm memories of working with a group that was really committed to mastering their craft.
Thank you for reading!
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After all, we have bills to pay.