Experiential Learning around the U.S. – Spotlight on Inly School
As we focus this week on our favorite subject – experiential learning – we’re pleased to announce the launch of a new series, spotlighting a variety of institutions and educators around the country who are breaking new ground in this area. We start the series with a look at Inly School.
Inly is a private Montessori school in Scituate, Massachusetts. Its students range from toddler through 8th grade. Inly blends Montessori curriculum with educational best practices, focusing on experiential learning. School administrators stress that experiential learning is more than a field trip – it’s a learning approach in which students have meaningful engagement with the subject matter, actively participating, rather than passively listening. These “relevant, authentic” learning experiences reinforce the academic lessons, deepening the students’ understanding and creating a “lasting impact.”
Inly School integrates experiential learning into the curriculum in all subject areas and at all grade levels. Their Outdoor Classroom, added in 2012, incorporated an adjacent four-acre plot of land, in which students learn science, gardening and outdoor exploration.
Starting in 4th grade, the students venture beyond the campus increasingly often, engaging in more intensive off-site learning experiences. Inly refers to these extra-classroom experiences as “Field Studies,” and believe that, “ultimately, venturing out into the world is at the heart of experiential learning.” These activities include:
Camping, Business and Travel – Camping expeditions start at Inly when you’re in 3rd grade. By 6th grade, the students are also planning and raising funds for their annual trip. Students in 7th and 8th grade add activities like rowing, sailing in “Ocean Classroom,” or living in a global village with Heifer International. Middle schoolers also have the opportunity to host students from Guatemala, travel to the United Nations, and participate in internships with local businesses.
Tapping In – As Inly Upper Elementary science teacher Jeff Klein pointed out, “We are always trying to connect kids to the land and have them understand more of what is happening all around them.” What happens in New England in February? Maple syrup harvesting. Mr. Klein asked his students to research the type of trees that produce the best sap, and learn how to distinguish those trees from others. Then they learned how to safely gather sap without damaging the trees. Armed with knowledge, they went into action. After each group identified a good tree, Klein helped them drill a small hole and embed a hollow metal tap, which acted like a straw. The sap flowed through the tap into a bucket, producing multiple buckets in a few weeks.
The next step of the project was to boil down the sap to produce syrup. Once the students successfully turned their sap into syrup, their final task was to “market” their new product, producing creative names and bottle labels, which they displayed for the Lower Elementary students. Naturally, the project culminated in a pancake party.
The World Peace Games
The Scituate local newspaper ran an October 2014 article describing another exciting learning exercise for Inly students, inspired by award-winning teacher John Hunter, who created the World Peace Games. This hands-on political simulation puts students in positions of responsibility, managing simulated economic, social and environmental crises and observing the affects on their global community. Handling these crises takes teamwork, diplomacy and strong decision-making skills.
Fifty-two students from Inly’s 4th, 5th, and 6th grades were involved in the games. They took on roles such as military leader, prime minister, secretary of state, arms dealer, World Banker, and United Nations representative. One held a secret role, acting as saboteur, just to keep it interesting.
The school needed to make complex game boards consisting of four Plexiglass levels: space, sky, land and sea floor. The crises, detailed in dossiers handed out to each student, included borderland disputes, air defense scrambles, rebel insurgencies, natural disasters, undersea mining, religious tensions, and drone attacks. As the students made moves on behalf of their “country” or organization, they had to keep a budget, which the World Bank audited. Money and a signed agreement were required for all inter-country trades. Peace treaties needed approval from all countries and the United Nations.
Inly administrators point out that special learning experiences like these require responsibility and independence. They hope to build not only their students’ skills, but their self-confidence and their love of learning.
Are you using experiential learning in your own classroom? Interested in learning more ways to do it? Hands-on, experiential learning is the heart of Envision’s mission. Please share your input, thoughts and questions in our comment section.