Holistic Education

Outdoor Education, or Experiential Education

The form of education that is practiced at Synergia Learning Ventures is sometimes called Outdoor Education, or Experiential Education. Some people refer to it as Environmental Education,Adventure Education, or Informal Education. We use all of these terms and others, as well. However, we do feel that over all these descriptions, is an umbrella known as Holistic Education.

Holistic Education

The philosophical underpinnings of the educational approach used at Synergia Learning Ventures is derived in large part from the work of Scott H. Forbes, PhD., and is described in his book, Holistic Education: an Analysis of Its Ideas and Nature. With the directors of Synergia having forty years of combined practice in Outdoor Experiential Education, and having studied and incorporated the works of many other great educators, the work of Dr. Forbes is certainly not the only influence, but the basis for our approach to education as “holistic”, can be found there.


For one, Dr. Forbes suggests that “Ultimacy” is the goal of education, and defines “Ultimacy” as 1.) “the highest state of being that a human can aspire to, either as a stage of development (e.g., enlightenment), as a moment of life that is the greatest but only rarely experienced by anyone (e.g., grace), or as a phase of life that is common in the population but usually rare in any particular individual’s life (e.g., Maslow’s peak-experience); and 2.) a concern or engagement that is the greatest that a person can aspire to (e.g. being in service to something sacred).

In the current climate of “no child left behind” and standardized tests that seem to have no end in sight, having a touchstone such as “Ultimacy” to remind us what education is truly supposed to do, is essential. And so, we start there. We do not claim to know exactly what Ultimacy is, or what it may mean to a given individual or group of individuals, but we do know that to hold it as a goal of our educational approach overall is the right thing to do. It also allows for the breadth to begin each program with this question:

“What is the goal of education?”

In other words, if Ultimacy is the overarching goal of everything we do in education, what are the specific goals of a given program? When the curriculum director sits down and outlines a given program, the question she posits first is, “What is the goal of this program (this educational moment)?” The next question is, “What needs to be learned in order to achieve the goal?” and then, “What will facilitate the needed learning?” This basic approach informs every program and is learned from holistic education.