Mindful Learning Experiences Through Structured Reflections During a Youth Travel-Abroad Program


  • Gary D. Ellis Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research
  • Andrew Lacanienta California Polytechnic State University
  • William F. Zanolini Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
  • Darlene Locke Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
  • Jingxian Jiang Texas A&M University




absorption, experience design, mindfulness, structured experiences


Mindfulness is an actively engaged state of mind when an individual is attuned to their surrounding multi-sensory elements. Mindful learning experiences during youth programs may enhance learning and the overall quality of experiences. We developed, executed, and evaluated an end-of-day structured mindfulness experience during a 4-H travel camp. In this paper we summarize the program and its outcomes and share details we believe will assist other youth professionals who may want to build structured mindfulness experiences into their own programs. Through the 4-H Global Travelers program, 20 youth participated in a 7-day travel camp in Argentina. At the end of each day campers gathered to engage in a 20-minute guided reflection of that day’s activities. We projected photographs taken throughout the day to facilitate recall of and reflection on their experiences that day. Campers’ responses to questions about the quality of their experience immediately following each of the mindful reflection sessions showed that sessions were highly absorbing, mindful learning experiences.

Author Biographies

Gary D. Ellis, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research

Dr. Gary Ellis is a Professor and Bradberry Chair in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism studies at Texas A&M University.

Andrew Lacanienta, California Polytechnic State University

Andrew Lacanienta is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Experience Industry Management at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. He is an experience wizard who designs, stages, and researches memorable and extraordinary experiences. By applying theory to practice Andrew strives to create engaging, active, and co-creative educational experiences for his students. Andrew utilizes design thinking, experience maps, The Event Design Canvas, and other experience strategy tools for freelance experience design consulting, workshops, and presentations for international audiences, clients, and firms. Andrew is a Utah native and loves the outdoors. He enjoys cycling into work each day, brewing his own kombucha, and painting during his free time.

William F. Zanolini, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Dr. Zanolini is a Extension 4-F Youth Development Specialist

Darlene Locke, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Dr. Darlene Locke is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism studies at Texas A&M University.

Jingxian Jiang, Texas A&M University

Dr. Jiang is Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University. Her research is focused on understanding immediate conscious experiences of youth.


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Program & Practice Articles