Experiential Learning Week focuses on providing students opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills outside of the bounds of the traditional classroom. Through these experiences, students are able step beyond their day-to-day curriculum and engage in more “real world” learning. Through a week of dedicated experiential learning offerings, MA is able to offer a variety of enriching experiences for our students, and our students engage in substantial activities that build their commitment to lifelong learning.
As students continue to map their journey to adulthood, experiential learning can provide them with the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills outside of the bounds of the traditional classroom. Grant Lichtman, educator and author paraphrases educational giant, John Dewey, when he states, “All of us, students and adults, learn content better when we learn it through the experiential acquisition of context and skills.” Each of the offerings in the Middle School has been built to allow students to engage their sense of wonder, build their independence, and connect their learning with real-life experience.
Recent Middle School Experiential Learning offerings include:
- Seventh graders had the opportunity to travel to Huntsville and Nashville. Highlights of their trip included: a visit to the Space & Rocket Center, a behind-the-scene tour at NASA, a rock-wall climbing experience, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry, a tour of music recording studio, and a tour of the Tennessee Titans’ stadium.
- Eighth graders had the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. During their stay in the DC area, they visited many of the Smithsonian museums, visited Arlington National Cemetery, visited the major presidential memorials, experienced a play at the Kennedy Center, and enjoyed a side-trip to Annapolis, Maryland, where they toured the United States Naval Academy.
- Students in both 7th & 8th grades also had the opportunity to take advantage of an option closer to home during Experiential Learning Week. In the “ Alabama Experience,” students participated in day trips throughout the River Region and the state to take advantage of what our own state has to offer. The 2016 Alabama Experience included: CPR training, robotics at Auburn University, a trip to the Civil Rights Institute and Museum in Birmingham, a trip to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and a service project at the Alabama Wildlife Foundation.
Freshmen incorporate a leadership study begun in Middle School with their activities during the week centered on community service.
The class hears presentations from several local agencies and then vote for who to partner with during Experiential Learning Week. Some of the agencies include: Child Protect, the Old Cloverdale Community Garden, Family Sunshine Center, Medical Outreach, Montgomery Council on Aging and Montgomery Water Works. Through planning sessions, students decide exactly how they will contribute to the community through a design thinking approach, meaning that most of the groups are responsible for solving a problem or devising a plan for their agencies rather than simply showing up and working for a few hours each day. Freshmen consider both the overall missions of their community partners and their immediate needs in deciding how best to serve them during Experiential Learning Week.
Freshmen start the week with leadership and community building exercises led by trainers from Bridge Builders. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings they work in the community and in the afternoons created promotional videos for their agencies and powerpoint presentations reflecting on their experience. On Thursday morning, they share their productions with the rest of the 9th grade class.
Students in grades 10 through 12 have a range of choices for their Experiential Learning Week activities, broadly grouped into categories: college tours, internships, service, and scholarship. Many activities involve leaving campus in order to gain tangible experiences that might only be seen in the abstract at school. All require active engagement. Two separate college tours led by our college advisors explore colleges and universities both regionally and nationally. During these trips, students have the opportunity to meet with admissions representatives and compare opportunities for the next stage of their educational careers.
Learning about professional careers through internships is another option offered. Seniors identify a business or professional practice that would allow them to spend the week seeing first-hand what it takes to succeed in that field.
Three groups engage in service projects that give back to the community and show how local organizations carry out their missions. Through the Hunger Awareness, students assist with a food drive and see the extent to which food insecurity still exists for many in our area. The Homebuilding project allow students to work on a home renovation site and learn about neighborhood revitalization. The Service with Animals provide students to see how animals are cared for at the Montgomery Zoo and the Humane Society.
Several scholarship groups explore academic subjects inside and outside the classroom. One group goes on a tour of art museums in New York City to enhance the AP Art History course. Another in-depth study of the Holocaust and its legacy, includes a trip to Atlanta's Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. History faculty members connect the historic sites of the region in a trip called “Civil War to Civil Rights.” Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, and Tuskegee were the origins of some of America's most significant people and events. Other students embark on the “Alabama Outdoor Experience,” which includes highlights such as kayaking on the Coosa River, and exploring ecology and the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Upper School Science faculty host the “STEM Make-a-thon,” allowing students to became engineers while building robots and using 3-D printers.