Confucius says, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Wikipedia defines Experiential learning as the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. Experiential learning invites students to develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting. Many may not think of a small Catholic school like St. Mary Chardon as being on the cutting edge of a non-traditional learning format like experiential learning, but they would be very wrong.
The students of St. Mary School are lucky enough to engage in this principle throughout their learning career at the school with the help of community partnerships and a flexible learning schedule. The smaller school environment that is St. Mary, allows for teachers to expand learning periods, work collaboratively across subject areas, and delve deeper into the concepts the students are studying.
Experiential learning has been known to create self-directed learners. Students are confronted with unfamiliar situations and tasks in a real-world context. To complete these tasks, students need to figure out what they know, what they do not know, and how to learn it.
Each year, St. Mary School, partners with organizations to help further their students’ knowledge of science, nature, creativity, sports and the arts. This year the 2nd and 3rd-grade classes worked with Holden Arboretum across the year in their program “Growing Students in Science”. The Nature Scopes program offered through The Geauga Parks District helps 5th graders dig deeper into their learning, and the 6th grade spent a week at overnight camp with Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. To further explore the arts, the Junior High put on their annual Spring Musical at The Geauga Theater, which allowed for not only full stage performance skills practice, but also learning the behind the scenes work of sound, stage and lighting. In addition, the entire school was able to walk to the theater to attend the St. Mary production, as well as another Anti-Bullying themed production put on by the Geauga Lyric Guild. Learning partnerships even extend down to the preschool students who have the opportunity to participate in Mini-Kickers soccer programs, or The Art Bus throughout the year.
In addition to these partnerships, the St. Mary students’ work with various organizations throughout the year, which allow for competition of specific skill sets like The Invention Convention, Science Olympiad, and the State Science Fair. Service partnerships exist through other local organizations including the Senior Center, and Project Hope for the Homeless.
Principal Mary Petelin said, “What we have found is that experiential learning motivates students. When students are engaged in learning experiences that they see the relevance of; they have increased motivation to learn. “ What students know is learning is more fun and keeps their interest better when it is hands on and keeps them thinking and reflecting continuously.
St. Mary’s School Chardon is a Catholic School for grades preschool through 8 where students are encouraged to develop academically in an environment of faith, with a vision for the future.
For information: http://www.stmaryschoolchardon.org