Our fourth graders returned from Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center and spent two days immersed in learning about a watershed, biodiversity, and energy cycles. They hiked, milked cows and experienced first-hand the concepts they are learning about in fourth grade science.
This trip is the first of the overnight trips in our curriculum, with additional overnight trips in Grade 5, and Middle School. However, we incorporate experiential learning in every grade at Green Hedges. All of our students, beginning with the Montessori students, take field trips through the year to see plays and visit museums.
Other experiential learning happens right on our beautiful campus. Art classes provide students the opportunity to photograph, sketch, or collect natural materials for inclusion in a project. Our Montessorians maintain three gardens, and grow flowers and herbs. Grade 1 observes the development of caterpillars into butterflies and celebrates with a springtime release ceremony. We are soon to begin installation of our science garden which will provide hands-on lessons in soil chemistry, biology, lifecycle of plants, and much more.
Experiential lessons are an invaluable learning tool for the following reasons:
- Enhances our curriculum—Through “learning by doing” our students are better able to grasp and retain concepts. By visiting Hard Bargain Farm last week, Grade 4 could see for themselves the local watershed ecosystem and were identifying producers, consumers and decomposers in food chains and food webs first-hand. They returned to their classroom this week ready to reflect on their observations and build upon them.
- Increases engagement levels amongst students—Our Middle School students experience an overnight camping excursion every fall, building confidence and teamwork on ropes courses, climbing walls and zip lines at Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center. The majority of the students come back from this trip saying that they were able to connect with their fellow middle schoolers differently than when they are at school. These connections continue for the rest of the school year and often beyond.
- Shows that it’s okay to make mistakes—When students perform hands-on tasks, they aren’t always going to get it right the first time. Experiential learning allows students to think differently and try new things and to regroup and try again if it doesn’t go their way the first time.
- Prepares students for real life—Life doesn’t happen in a controlled environment. Adapting to a changing atmosphere, working in groups and learning to work with others in sometimes less than ideal circumstances are all factors our students experience during our trips.
- Aligns with one of our core values of “Explore Opportunities”—Green Hedges believes that a child’s growth is fostered through a broad range of academic, fine art, athletic and other endeavors and we require all students to engage in these pursuits. Only by trying something, whether it be an instrument you haven’t played before or ziplining for the first time, will you begin to realize your potential. At Green Hedges, we provide those opportunities in a safe space.