Experiential Knowledge vs. Book/Classroom Knowledge

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From generation to generation the knowledge of language, religion, skills and survival methods has been passed on in the Sami culture. In describing the Sami ideas about knowledge, it is important to include the fact that they put a lot of importance on utility and things that were important on a day-to-day basis. Unlike the formal education in the West, classroom/book learning, which is theoretical, the Sami taught their young through experience. This type of learning is hands-on and very different than formal learning. Written documentation is a relatively new thing to the Sami. For millennia, the traditional knowledge was passed down orally. Storytelling and informal discussions are two examples of how knowledge was passed down. Unlike Western learning, which is primarily theoretical and taught in a classroom or learned from books, the Sami taught empirically, through experiential learning. The young student would join an older person, usually a parent, in doing different tasks. They would observe the older person, listen to what they were saying, ask questions and then proceed to try their own hand. These tasks could include anything from fishing and hunting ptarmigan, to picking cloudberries and sewing a gakti. In the arctic tundra and along the coast where the Sami lived, life was difficult and survival was of the utmost importance. Therefore, the traditional knowledge that was passed down from parent to child was primarily a series of recipes for survival. Young people learned from the life experience of older people who had in turn learned their knowledge from the generations that came before them. Observations were also an integral part of the Sami’s experiential learning. It was important for the young person to observe things for himself and to learn to think for himself. This fits in with the model, as the knowledge that was being passed down to the student was based on thousands of years of observation. The Sami’s close ties to nature were prevalent...
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