Six Trends Observed in Experiential Learning

Leesburg, Virginia, December 15, 2016 … The National Conference Center – one of the nation’s largest conference centers and the largest on the East Coast – with its partner The Browne Center, has observed six trends in experiential learning.

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Experiential learning presents a highly unique growth opportunity for participants, and a tool that planners can use to achieve a specific outcome.  Differentiated from the more traditional teambuilding, experiential learning uses a blended approach to learning, integrating activities, exercises, adventure elements, quiet time and ongoing post-event coaching to create powerful programs of leadership development, strategic planning, mentoring and coaching, communication, feedback & observation and enhancement of behavior styles.

 

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Six Trends Observed in Experiential Learning:

  1. Barrier Free Learning … Take away the white classroom tables. Barrier free learning is hands-on training in a lab-like setting verses the traditional meeting room or classroom. For example, The National has created an entire workroom and lab for simulation or scenario training for a top major client to deliver new skills, taking away the barrier of the ‘white table’ with attendees learning in a lab or open space area.
  2. Learning by Choice … Mixing classroom training with outdoor activities. The Challenge Course at The National has high and low rope elements, and increasingly facilitators are using a Challenge-by-Choice approach.  Learning Programs are designed to meet the variety of goals unique to each client, whether conferees make use of the elements of the high or low course, or none at all. There is a role for everyone in the training, even if individuals choose not to physically participate.
  3. Learning by Shared Experiences … Creating ‘shared experiences’, such as a building project, where everyone is involved collectively – from C-level executives to assistant managers – taking each participant out of their comfort zone and into a creative problem solving task to construct the future.
  4. Learning by Silence … Groups are increasingly exploring the power of silence in a high-speed, technically dependent world. Facilitators are allowing more time for conferees’ solo quests, reflection, meditation time and movements like yoga that can provide powerful reconnection with the natural world, and the true inner self, opening new channels of connection and learning.
  5. Learning by Doing… Learners participate in carefully chosen experiences that are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis. It engages the learners to be in direct experience, to be doing something that connects to an area they hope to improve or develop.  The learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experiment-ting, being curious, and solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
  6. Learning through Application … While debriefing is a structured process facilitated by a skilled professional throughout the process of a program, it has been in place for some time.  Today a post program application assists participants over time with how learning translates back at the office. There are a number of strategies that can be arranged to help facilitate this continued learning process. These include, self-directed debrief meetings, professional coaching sessions by phone or in person, or follow up, mini sessions at the one, two or three month intervals. These sessions can be highly productive and fun, assisting the participants in real time learning application issues. They can be on the participants work site or scheduled as an offsite.

 

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The National Conference Center installed a state-of-the-art challenge course last year to provide additional training and learning opportunities for their clients. The National Challenge Course consists of five low elements plus many portable options, which are weight bearing problem solving activities that can accommodate 15 or more people at any one time. Also six high elements can be done with two or more solo, or with many other climbers simultaneously. All high elements are dynamic relays where participants hold the rope for one another.

For more information about experiential learning at The National, call 800-640-2684.

Food for Thought: Healthy Breakfast Trends 2016

As one of the largest meeting and training facilities in the East Coast, The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, has developed a healthy meeting/eating program.  John Walsh, director of food and beverage, along with Executive Chef Chris Ferrier, host a Breakfast of Champions every quarter and share their healthy tips.

The breakfast menu starts with Antioxidant Shooters, Mini Nonfat Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Chia Seeds and Organic Granola and Berries. It’s a fact…healthy, low sugar, high protein foods for meeting breaks allow attendees to focus better, stay alert and stay involved in the conversation. Here’s just a few break and breakfast ideas we’ve researched:

  • Greek yogurt probiotic are high in protein.
  • Eggs are healthier than we thought. See new medical USDA studies.
  • Strawberries are high in vitamin C and low fat.
  • Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant foods.
  • Avocado oil contains nearly 20 essential vitamins and minerals, providing beneficial plant compounds like 81 micrograms lutein and zeaxanthin, which research suggests may help maintain eye health as we age.

Chef and John continue to create healthy food options for all meetings and events at The National. Here are a few of their food trends for 2016. To see the full list, click here.

Fresh-and-local continues to be what meeting planners and guests request.  “Our guests are delighted to learn that they’re not only getting healthy food but they’re also supporting local farms,” said Walsh. Healthy, simple, good food is always in style.  It is sometimes a challenge since The National can serve over 1,000 meals a day, but Executive Chef Chris Ferrier meets with local farmers and suppliers daily to see what is fresh that he can incorporate into his menus.

Small plates and small bites are popular.  Guests prefer to try many different options as opposed to one heavy, sit-down meal.  Consider doing tapas type food stations where guests can try a variety of different items. Be sure to include vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices as now requested by a growing number of people.  We mark all our items and let guests know which are gluten-free.

Tell a story.  Guests not only want to know where their food comes from but they like to know the story behind the food.  Chef and our culinary team often are the ‘entertainment’ as they discuss and share stories about the farmers and local suppliers at each table.  And the story is not just about the source of the food but also about the chef, the sommelier and the people involved.  It’s all about the experience—socialization, engagement, the food, the people, the setting.

To learn more about our food program and healthy food options, discuss these ideas with your sales associate or conference planner. We are always open to your ideas.

The National Celebrates Earth Day

The National Conference Center is one of the largest meeting and training facilities in the county. Over the years, the property has obtained many green industry certifications and awards, including Green Seal GS-33 Silver and Virginia Green Certified and is a past winner of the Loudoun County Green Business Challenge. As we create this legacy of taking care of our Earth, we have reached out into the local community to teach children about organic foods, encourage healthy eating habits and sustainability.

earthday1To celebrate Earth Day, April 22, The National continues its green initiatives reaching out to the local community. During our recent Easter celebration, a mock bunny garden with a wheel barrow, garden tools allowing our ‘little’ guests to dig a whole, plant seeds and create plant markers. We are now taking that ‘plant and grow’ theme and creating more opportunities to encourage the community and children to take care of the Earth.

earthday2Now that the seeds are ready to be transplanted, we invite the children back for a planting party on Earth Day. Families and children can come back on Saturday, April 23, between 11 a.m.  – 1 p.m. to tend to the organic garden — water, pull weeds, harvest early peas, lettuce and spinach. The plant markers that were made during the Easter celebration are used to show the plants’ designation. Go to the front desk and ask for Rachael Rutherford, our garden host for the day, and she will escort your to the garden.

During Mother’s Day and other events, Executive Chef Ferrier will be using items from our garden, supplementing with local farmers produce and meeting with them regularly. Often Chef adjusts menus based on what he can get from his local purveyors.

earthday3To celebrate Earth Day week, The National will hold the 2nd Breakfast of Champions event in the Courtyard on Wednesday, April 20 at 8:15 a.m. for the local community with menu items from our local farmers and purveyors. Paul Safran, our Director of Catering, along with Chef Ferrier, will be discussing our sustainability program. Each attendee will receive a tree sapling to plant in their yard.

We continue our commitment to Earth Day celebrations with Jazz it Up, June 25, where we will host a children’s cook off fundraiser using foods from the National’s garden. At any activity at the National, the garden is available for children to enjoy and learn about new plants and techniques.

For more information about our Green Program, email Charline Gordon or call her directly at 703-724-5137.