Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
YES! Winter break is upon many of us, the holidays are in full effect, and you want to spend this break, well, taking a break! So planning a New Years activity for your experiential learners when you all return is not even something you can wrap your mind around right now. Your goal is to get a break! I completely get it.
Right now is a great time to spend time with family and friends, reflecting, and practicing self-care, so that you can head back to teaching with renewed energy and spirit!
Don't spend this break planning learning activities. Take that badly needed break, and when you have a second, browse this blog post. Get inspired by these low-prep, self-directed New Years activity ideas for when you return to reality. They're all a great way to ease back into things upon return.
Each of the New Years activity ideas included here could be implemented on your own; you can organize the experiences yourself rather than purchase the resources. But if you're looking for guidance and ease with ready-made resources, click on the activity links included under each activity description.
Note: The resources are geared toward high school students. But the New Years activity ideas listed here can certainly be adapted for younger experiential students. Use the ideas for inspiration!
10 New Years Activity Ideas for Experiential Learners
1) Set Goals Through Artistic Expression
My students are hands-on learners. That is often why they end up with me, an educator with an experiential philosophy because they thrive in an experiential learning environment.
One of the first New Years activities I give my students after the break is a hands-on way to set goals for the new year. PBL Maker Challenge: Goals Through Artistic Expression asks students to set goals and illustrate those goals artistically. They create an art piece with visuals that symbolize or represent their goals.
This maker activity mixes things up a bit and really gets learners thinking about what they want and where they're headed this year. The final product can be displayed in a place that provides a consistent reminder.
2) Community Action Projects
A popular New Year's resolution or goal for the new year is to give back. What is a community action project? Students play an active role in directly acting out solutions to essential community issues. Students choose an issue that they are passionate about, explore ways to make an impact, design their project, and take action.
You can organize these learning experiences as completely open-ended, where students choose ANY community issue of interest as their focus. My students use my community action projects tool kit as a guide for these open-ended experiences. Or you can do more of a themed community action experience where you give students some direction or structure on topic and process.
For example, I do a trending issues community action project experience with my high school students around the New Year. Students conduct trend analysis to choose an issue for their community action project that is current, relevant, and statistically high need as we move into the new year.
Community action projects are really powerful experiences that I highly recommend. Make the whole process easier by using my free community action project implementation spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is one of many included in a much bigger experiential learning activities spreadsheet resource. Click the button below to grab that resource for free right now!
3) Inquiry Bingo New Years Activity
My inquiry bingo resource is a game best suited for middle and high schoolers that encourages inquiry. Students investigate a series of questions that cannot be answered with one simple Google Search.
Finding the answer to each question requires research skills, teamwork, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and more. This activity helps learners practice finding credible and accurate information through a variety of avenues. This particular inquiry bingo is New Year's themed.
4) Dinner Party on a Budget
Although the holiday season is wrapping up, "planning" a New Year's themed dinner party on a budget (hypothetical) is not only a fun activity to do after a long break but is an important learning experience. One of the most common New Year's resolutions centers around personal finance. This activity is a great way for students to learn some important math lessons, specifically as they relate to saving and budgeting.
5) Self-Led Personal Learning Plans
Experiential learning is personalized. At the beginning of the school year, my students build personal learning plans using a ready-made digital personal learning plan template. We glance at their personal learning plans every couple of weeks, but we review personal learning plans in depth when we return from break.
I meet with each student if possible to look over their personal learning plans. We reflect together on the year so far, modify or add goals, insert project possibilities and upcoming seminars, etc.
Check out this free personal learning plan implementation spreadsheet.
6) New Year’s Themed Self-Directed Project-Based Learning
What I do with my high school students is self-led project-based learning. Learners choose the topic of interest related to the New Year. They determine a method of gathering information on that topic, connect with community experts, decide on a final product, develop a community impact plan, organize their own authentic presentation, and can even generate their own rubrics.
Transitioning to student-directed learning can be a challenge, as many students are accustomed to learning experiences that are designed for them. If you are interested in making the transition, use my Project-Based Learning Tool Kit to make the change much easier.
Start the process by asking students to choose a topic that is related to the new year. They will design their own project around a subtopic of their choosing related to New Year's (history, research studies, cultural traditions, etc.)
The free experiential learning spreadsheet mentioned in #2 also comes with a self-directed project-based learning implementation spreadsheet.
7) Year-End Reflection Slideshow
Reflection is an important part of any experiential learning experience. I have my students reflect using a guide with questions that I've created after every learning activity. But I also have my students reflect on bigger picture events such as the year.
Every year around this time my students put together a digital Google Slides reflection slideshow specifically reflecting on the year before making plans for the new year. They go through each slide answering the reflection prompt included and adding visual supplements to their reflection answers. Then they present their reflections to the class.
8) Self-Directed Service-Learning
I love having students design and lead their own service-learning projects around the new year. It's a great time of year for students to give back. Service-learning is always a great learning activity, regardless of the time of year, but my high school students take this time of year to really reflect and plan for the future. The skills that come with service-learning experiences are great to have/develop as they make their way toward the next chapter of their lives.
Service-learning projects are similar to my community action projects, but my students focus specifically on local community needs. My service-learning tool kit walks learners through this experience from start to finish.
9) Current Events Project-Based Learning
Having current events as a part of your curriculum is great, particularly if that experience is project-based. A current events project-based learning experience is a great "after break" way to break into self-directed project-based learning.
Students can research current events from New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. They can focus on a current event that is particularly meaningful or relevant to the year or era in question. Once students have honed in on a current event of interest, they can design their student-led PBL projects.
Click on Project-Based Learning: Current Events for a guiding resource from Experiential Learning Depot.
10) 21st-Century Skill-Building Portfolio
21st-century skill-building is important and this particular experience is the essence of Experiential Learning Depot. Students gain content knowledge, 21st-century skills, and social-emotional skills with this activity. They also build their resumes.
Students organize authentic experiences that help them build elemental 21st-century skills, they reflect on those experiences, and they document the experiences in a portfolio that can be shared with employers, college admissions counselors, etc.
Post-New Year's is a great time for students to start building a 21st-century skills portfolio. Students will be thinking about the past year and the year ahead. This project is a great way for seniors to harness the skills they will need in the coming year.
Thanks for stopping by. Have a GREAT winter break, and remember to take care of yourself! Recuperate! You deserve it. Happy New Year!
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Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
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.