Every season is prime time for experiential learning, but fall is one of my favorite times of year for experiential learning activities. Fall is unique in so many ways. The weather begins to change, wildlife prepares for winter, many farmers harvest their crops, seasonal illnesses begin to creep in (not my favorite), kids gear up for winter sports, fall flavors make a brief appearance, and the holiday season comes on strong.
Experiential learning is a fabulous way to personalize learning, and developing personal learning plans is a great way to do that.
Experiential learning is by nature personalized, and part of customizing any learning experience is by letting students take the lead. Student-directed learning gives students voice and choice in what they learn and how they learn it. For students to direct their own learning experiences you (and they) need to have a good idea of who they are and what they need. Students design and develop learning experiences that fit with their academic and personal needs, challenges, strengths, interests, and more.
So how do you approach this? How do you make learning personal? How do you use personal backgrounds, needs, experiences, and interests to develop self-directed learning experiences that are meaningful and effective?
With personal learning plans.
I am often asked how to get colleagues on board with experiential learning. This is an important question. I taught at an experiential school for 10 years. It was tough when there was a staff member or two that didn't agree with or understand the experiential philosophy.
Experiential learning is a profound and life-changing teaching strategy with a laundry list of benefits attached, but working with those that are resistant to the craft can be draining, leaving you with little choice but to keep on teaching in a way that you don't feel is effective for your students or fulfilling to you.
So how can you work with those that are resistant to experiential learning? What can you do? What can you say?
What is experiential learning in the classroom, and what does an experiential learning classroom look like? Experiential learning can take place anywhere, including a classroom, and there are particular ways to make experiential learning in a classroom or homeschool learning environment more conducive than others.
Observing high school senior project experiences and their outcomes has been one of the highlights of my career as an educator. The benefits of high school senior project experiences are out of this world.
I have witnessed and been a part of implementing a variety of senior project styles, so through a lot of trial and error, have developed a comprehensive senior experience that incorporates the best parts of each of those senior project varieties.
Interest-based learning is when students identify their interests and use those interests to drive and lead learning experiences.
The purpose of designing learning experiences around interests is to encourage an intrinsic motivation to learn and inspire a passion for learning. This happens by tying learning experiences with topics and questions that are meaningful, relevant, and interesting to students. Personalize learning through interest-led project-based learning.
"I would love to start self-directed project-based learning, but I'm a beginner and I'm feeling really uncertain and overwhelmed by the learning curve". I get this comment in my inbox quite often and my response is always that you have to start self-directed project-based learning somewhere. You might as well start now and with a few tricks of the trade in your back pocket.
I heard the word "senior project" the first day I walked into my classroom as a first year teacher. Senior projects, although they took many different shapes over the course of my career, were highly emphasized at my school.
We always implemented a senior project of some kind. The school never wavered on that, and I never questioned it because I witnessed senior projects to be one of the most amazing college and career readiness strategies for our students.
If you are in secondary education, implementing a senior project for high school students has likely crossed your mind. You've mulled over the costs and benefits of senior projects, the time commitment, how to develop a senior project program, what your senior project would look like, and more.
I have had many people reach out over the past few months asking about experiential learning in k-12 classrooms. What is experiential learning? What is an example of experiential learning? Where can I get experiential learning activities? How do you use experiential learning in the classroom?
I have even had educators reach out that are in the process of starting experiential schools. That is really exciting, and from what I'm gathering, also a little scary and chaotic for these educators.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.