I spend a lot of time thinking about the teaching process in preparation for our courses. Years of doing so have led me to believe that there are many things that can be learned, but not directly taught. An example of this took place the other night when some of the participants in our winter survival course spent the night out in a shelter they built. Without a sleeping bag or blanket, they kept warm by having a big fire next to their shelters. With this experience, and many others like it, an instructor can explain what you need to know and what you need to do, but he or she can’t do it for you. The learning takes place as a result of the experience. The student is then ready for advanced lessons that wouldn’t make sense, and would have no context, without the experience. Another example is snubbing (poling) a canoe down a rapid. Unless someone has spent some time poling on smooth water and understands how the pole interacts with the river bottom, the advanced skills of white water poling are difficult to grasp.
I strongly believe that experience-based bushcraft results in more holistic learning than static bushcraft based solely on skills, without an experiential component.