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The Best Way To Learn

For those who don’t know, I only attended one year of traditional public school.

2 semesters were all it took for me to realize that experiential learning held more potential for me than learning in a classroom.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my school, my teachers, my classmates, and all the classes I took.

What I didn’t love, however, was the slow pace by which the classes were taught, the rigidity of schedules and learning topics, the inflexibility of learning outside of the classroom, and the fact that very little that I learned had any substantial importance in the real world.

Why I Left Traditional Learning

While I was in traditional school the teacher would teach geometry, but we would never learn how those skills could add value to someone in the world outside of our class. We had occasional projects but the criteria were fairly strict and the busy work required to complete the projects took up any free time I might have had to explore and learn new things.

And even my favorite class, biology, started to become taxing when the point of the class began to revolve more around grades than around learning about the subject.

So, after an exciting, but purposeless, freshmen year of high school, I left.

I was eager to learn by doing, and so, for the rest of high school and even after I finished, I sought projects and opportunities in which I could get my hands dirty, provide real-world value, and learn skills foreign to classrooms.

But while I learned a lot during those 3–4 years, I am exceptionally proud of one of my most recent projects: creating a marketing video for the Houston Zoo.

The Value I Sought to Add to the Houston Zoo

I have lived near the Houston Zoo all my life. When I was a kid, I often visited with my siblings and parents, and we would spend the day marveling at the countless amazing animals there. Every visit it seemed as if I had seen something new: witnessed a new animal behavior, noticed a new creature I had never seen, or even come upon a part of the zoo I had never visited before.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago, over 10 years since I first started visiting, that I realized that there was more to the Houston Zoo than just exotic animals in tanks or unfamiliar faces behind fences.

The Houston Zoo was a hub of environmental conservation!

I was initially thrilled by the discovery that the zoo had a global impact on the preservation and restoration of natural wild spaces and the animals that lived there. I would talk to zookeepers and zoo staff, eager to learn more about the conservation work that the zoo was doing. I read books recommended to me by people at the zoo and developed a network of friends that worked there.

But eventually, I began to become disappointed.

Why had it taken me so long to realize the amazing work the zoo was doing globally?

And if it took me (an aspiring conservationist) this long to realize the impact the zoo was making, was it taking others just as long, or even longer?

The tagline of the Houston Zoo is See them. Save them. To me, that is a powerful message, a message worth sharing with the world.

And when I was presented with the opportunity to learn by doing and create a self-directed project, I immediately jumped on the idea of trying to enhance the messaging of the Houston Zoo’s mission through a marketing video.

And even though I have never created a marketing video before, by stepping into this video production process and experiencing the struggles and excitement of interviews, animation, and video editing, I know that in this past month, I have learned more by doing than I have ever learned in any other 30-day period in my life.

How This Applies to You

As someone who has experienced both traditional and non-traditional education, I strongly encourage you to think about the value of learning by doing.

While studying, listening to lectures, or watching videos can prove extremely helpful, the only true way to master anything is through deliberate and repeated practice. And the only way to practice is by doing.

So, in whatever area of your life, this applies to, seek to learn through experience. No one learns how to ride a bike by studying how wheels are made. They learn by trying, falling, and then trying again.

This post is part of the marketing videography project that I undertook in October. If you are interested in learning more about my project, click here.


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