What is Experiential Learning_ (1)

What is Experiential Learning?

At Empower, we believe if the work we do in school truly matters, learning will follow. This is because students are human beings, and human beings are motivated by a hard-wired instinct: to learn. Oftentimes, traditional school environments disrupt these instincts in a push to standardize learning. Empower offers experiential learning through which students learn through reflection on real-life experiences. Experiential learning increases and deepens engagement as it requires all students to be active participants in the experience.

We know that as a parent, you want to choose the high school that offers your student the educational opportunities they need to be set up for success in the future. Understanding experiential learning can help you decide whether or not it is the right fit for your child.

What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning offers students the opportunity to learn through reflection on real-world experiences. Instead of learning from textbooks and lectures within the four walls of a traditional classroom setting, experiential learning challenges students to develop knowledge and gain skills by  interact authentically with the world around them. For example, instead of studying World War II by reading a chapter in a history textbook, students would meet with survivors to conduct interviews and document their stories.

Experiential learning is built on the belief that our most deep knowledge is born from experience. After connecting students with relevant real-world experiences, educators facilitate a reflection on the experience and push students: use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience and use decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience. 

Experiential learning has long been a cornerstone of post-secondary educational experiences. Undergraduate students often learn through internships, travel abroad experiences, and apprenticeships. Recently, high schools in Aurora, like Empower Community High School and William Smith High School, have adopted this approach and are offering experiential learning opportunities to students grades 9-12.

What Does Experiential Learning Look Like at Empower?

The experiences associated with experiential learning are varied and will depend on each student's course of study. The key, however, is that many of those experiences take place outside the classroom--or, in some cases, bring the full experience into the classroom, where students can interact more directly with the material they're learning about. Experiences may include:

  • Using technical skills directly by working with machines and programs that are actually used in the real world
    • (3D Printer, Coding Software, Video Camera, Tools to self-publish, etc…)
  • Taking field trips to local businesses, institutions, and organizations in order to better understand how things work
  • Interning or working during the school day to try out professions or shadow professionals
  • Projects for the real-world and not just a classroom
  • Traveling to study abroad or to visit inspiring/innovative spaces
  • Role-playing and simulations 
  • Community-Based, Collegiate-level Research

What are the Benefits of Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning has a number of key benefits for any student, especially those with attention difficulties or other learning disabilities that make a traditional classroom model a struggle. Consider:

Experiential learning allows students to go deeper into the material that interests them. Instead of being limited by the confines of a single textbook or the information provided by a teacher, students have the opportunity to delve deeper into material that catches their interest. With this model, students are able to seek more information about things that genuinely interests them, whether that's a small detail about a larger project or a deeper understanding of a complex concept. Not only that, experiential learning allows students to put that knowledge to use, increasing the odds that they'll retain it later. 

Students are able to take more ownership over the learning experience. Experiential learning gives students more control over the whole learning experience. They're able to decide what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Students will develop a better understanding of their own learning styles and how they interact with information as they discover what interests them most. As a result, when they leave high school behind, they'll be better prepared to take advantage of future learning opportunities, whether they head off to college or choose a trade school or profession. 

Students are more likely to retain the information. Students who sit in classrooms and are expected to passively regurgitate information as it's handed to them often don't absorb that information. They remember it for a test and then let it go within a few short weeks. With experiential learning, on the other hand, students are genuinely interacting with the material in front of them. As a result, they're more likely to remember it later. In many cases, project-based learning can actually increase student test scores and make them more confident with the material they've absorbed.

Students have the opportunity to reflect. Experiential learning isn't just about "doing." It also includes a reflection process: time to absorb the information, reflect, and consider where things went right and where things went wrong. This part of the process is integral to the learning effort, since it allows students to truly absorb the impact of the lessons they've learned. 

Experiential learning can increase student confidence as it better prepares them for the real world. Instead of being a passive part of the learning process, students are encouraged to genuinely engage with the material, often in a way that betters the world around them. If you're looking for a high school where your student will be able to learn through this model and feel better prepared for the real world, contact us today to learn more about Empower Community High School and whether or not it is a good fit for your child.