The Power of Experience

sunset at cabrini. photo by paul goyette on Flickr

I came into education through an experiential learning programme in Chicago. 2 years after completing the University-accredited ‘study abroad’ myself, I joined the staff of the Urban Life Center (now Chicago Center) and supported students as they discovered Chicago for themselves. South Shore Cultural Center, the Murals of Pilsen, Boystown and all that was happening on the streets of Uptown. These were some of the experiences that transformed lives in big and small ways.

15 years later, it continues to serve as an exemplar of the power and importance of experience (and reflection) in the learning process.

Now, as we are guiding our MYP students in their own individual inquiries, I wonder how we can build in opportunities so that their own learning can be shaped through experience. I was reminded of this from a recent post from the Guardian, where Lisa Reid reflected on teaching the Holocaust to her history students. Her reflections rang true and left me questioning ways of improving our approach.

In a student-led and largely independent inquiry project, how can we support our students to find the experiences – outside of the classroom – that will change their lives? In the IB system, I suppose this happens largely at a broader level through the Personal Project and CAS projects. However, allowing myself to be a bit being greedy on behalf of my students, I’d like that direct and immediate impact in Humanities as well.


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