What is experiential education?
Experiential education is an ideal learning model that allows for direct, hands-on engagement with academic materials and course content. This model of learning encourages students to constantly reflect on their experiences as they develop practical skills and better understand themselves in relation to its communities, both local and global. With this model, students are given the opportunity to practically apply the skills they learn in the classroom. Through engagement with the outside world, students are able to connect with their communities and realize their passions in a more tangible way than with traditional schooling. In such a rapidly changing world, hands-on experience with problem-solving, project-building, and collaborative learning are important skills students will need to succeed.
In recent years, many academic curricula have begun to shift away from traditional classroom teaching and embrace the collaborative, engaging style of experiential education. Traditional schooling as we know it today was born during the industrial revolution and mimics an assembly line: students learn subjects in isolation from one another, keeping content confined to the classroom. With this traditional model, students don’t always get the chance to see the practical application of their studies. In order for students to feel that their course content is relevant to their lives, they need to see classroom theories applied in real-world situations. By giving students a well-rounded perspective on how their education is relevant to the world, we set them up for lifelong success an fruitful careers in this technological age.
Experiential education at EF Academy
As the average person changes career paths multiple times in their lives, what matters in addition to content acquisition are skills such as project development, direct problem solving, awareness of multiple perspectives, and collaboration – all skills that lend themselves perfectly to experiential learning. EF Academy gives high importance to the development of such educational and practical skills through both the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) for All program. These hands-on programs encourage every student to develop these skills while discovering their interests and passions outside of the classroom.
The International Baccalaureate curriculum encourages experiential learning, and teachers at EF Academy are experts at getting students involved with course content in a real, tangible way. The science department has taken students to coding competitions, Columbia University science labs, and Hudson River clean-ups as a practical application of skills learned in Computer Science, Biology and Chemistry. The Humanities Department visited the United Nations to understand international diplomacy firsthand. They also went to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home to learn more about an important part of US history, and attended conferences to work on solutions to the problem of mass incarceration in the US.
CAS is one of the core components of the International Baccalaureate Program. This core component gives students the opportunity to undertake extra-curricular experiences and projects to express their interests and passions. Examples include fundraising for several causes, including to build a dorm for a school in Northern Kenya, for an orphanage in Brazil, and for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In a new project, students have begun to translate informational materials from the Children’s Tumor Foundation into their native languages to raise global awareness on neurofibromatosis. Another project students worked on this year was EFTV, a news segment celebrating student achievements at EF Academy and highlighting news from around the school. Other CAS experience examples include digital design, culinary arts, bicycling rock climbing, tutoring, advocacy, and so much more!
Preparing for the future
EF Academy is, on the whole, an immersive atmosphere dedicated to experiential learning. By giving students the opportunity to explore the things they love, experiential education sets students up for success in college/university, their careers, and beyond. Not only does hands-on learning promote better awareness and understanding of core educational concepts, it also encourages students to consistently reflect on themselves and their world. Developing such well-rounded perspectives and having an acute understanding of how they fit into their communities, gives students a lifelong sense of curiosity and a commitment to ongoing self-development. By applying their learning in the real world, students can understand all the possible things they can be in their lifetime. Experiential education sets up students for futures that are truly limitless.