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What is Experiential Learning?

June 27, 2024
Guest Contributor
SMCS Experiential Learning | students working on robots

Experiential learning is a transformative educational approach that emphasizes learning through doing. Unlike traditional classroom settings, where learning is often passive and theoretical, experiential learning actively engages students in hands-on, real-world experiences.

Below, we’ve outlined how the experiential educational approach fosters a deeper understanding of a given subject matter, enhances retention, and helps students develop practical skills by connecting classroom concepts to tangible, firsthand experiences.

What is Experiential Learning at School?

Experiential learning at school goes beyond textbooks and lectures – it immerses students in activities, projects, field trips, experiments, and interactive experiences that bring subjects to life.

The primary goals of experiential learning are to deepen students’ understanding of academic concepts, enhance retention of information, and develop practical, real-world skills. By connecting classroom learning to firsthand experiences, students gain a more comprehensive and applicable understanding of their subjects.

Here’s how experiential learning manifests in a school setting:

Hands-On Activities and Projects

Experiential learning involves various hands-on activities and projects that require students to apply their knowledge in practical ways over an extended period that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. Students then demonstrate their knowledge and skills by creating a public product or presentation for a real audience.

Field Trips and Out-of-Classroom Experiences

Field trips and out-of-classroom experiences are integral components of experiential learning. Visiting museums, historical sites, businesses, or natural parks allows students to connect classroom learning with real-world contexts, deepening their understanding of the material and the relationship between different concepts and their respective environments.

SMCS Experiential Learning | Students abroad on a March Break trip

Real-World Experiments

Engaging in real-world experiments helps students see the practical applications of their studies. This could include anything from building a model to demonstrate a physics concept to developing a business plan for an entrepreneurship class.

Interactive Experiences

Interactive experiences, such as simulations, role-playing, and debates, allow students to immerse themselves in scenarios that reflect real-life challenges. This type of learning encourages active participation and critical thinking.

The SMCS Experiential Education Approach

At St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), experiential learning is a cornerstone of our educational philosophy. Our approach provides authentic, dynamic and meaningful opportunities that inspire curiosity and encourage deeper exploration while complementing the traditional curriculum.

Collaboration and Community Engagement

Our experiential education initiatives are developed through our Community Engagement and Learning Lead. This involves close collaboration with corporations, partner organizations, and our extensive alumni and parent networks. These partnerships enrich our students’ learning experiences by bringing diverse perspectives and expertise into the classroom.

Practical, Hands-On Learning

SMCS offers a variety of practical, hands-on learning opportunities that span multiple disciplines. These experiences open students to enriched real-world learning inside and outside the classroom. Combining experiential learning with independent study and learning partnerships ensures students gain a well-rounded education that prepares them for future success.

SMCS Experiential Learning | Moot Court Competition

Experiential Learning Opportunities at SMCS

SMCS provides numerous experiential learning opportunities that cater to various interests and career aspirations. Here are a few examples of how we integrate experiential learning into our students’ education:

Law Programme

Our specially designed law programme allows students to visit leading law firms and learn directly from legal professionals. Topics covered include legal reasoning and writing, financing, trial and court preparation, litigation, and the evolving legal and business landscape. This programme gives students a taste of what a legal career entails and helps them develop valuable skills applicable to many other fields.

March Break Opportunities

During March Break, SMCS organizes various experiential learning opportunities that allow students to explore different interests and gain new experiences. These include internships, volunteer work, or educational trips that broaden students’ horizons and deepen their understanding of different subjects.

Science and Technology

In our science and technology programmes, students engage in experiments and projects that bring theoretical concepts to life. Whether it’s through building robots, conducting experiments, or participating in coding challenges, students gain practical skills and experience that prepare them for future academic and career pursuits.

Arts and Humanities

Our arts and humanities programmes incorporate experiential learning through activities such as visiting art galleries, attending live performances, and participating in historical reenactments. These experiences enrich students’ understanding of cultural and historical contexts, enhancing their appreciation and comprehension of the subjects. Specifically in the music programme, students regularly are immersed in live performances through music festivals, school masses, Club BlueNote and the Christmas and Spring Concert Series. This includes our fall dramatic production and Broadway musical where students fully experience the life of a performer as they bring a character to life on stage or support the action as a member of our stage crew, utilizing our state-of-the-art Centre for the Arts supported by industry professionals.

SMCS Experiential Education | Entrepreneurship at the DMZ

Business and Entrepreneurship

For students interested in business and entrepreneurship, SMCS offers programmes that involve creating business plans, engaging in market research, and developing new products. These hands-on projects help students understand the complexities of the business world and develop the skills needed to succeed in it.

Experiential learning is a vital educational component at St. Michael’s College School. By providing students with hands-on, real-world experiences, we help them connect classroom concepts to tangible applications so that they can deepen both their academic and practical understanding of their areas of interest. Our comprehensive experiential education approach, supported by strong community and industry partnerships, ensures our students are well-prepared for their future academic and career endeavours.