Experiential Learning: Outside the Proverbial Box

Aristotle wrote, ‘For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” A hallmark of Innovation Lab is the opportunity for students (and faculty) to experience and share learning within and beyond the traditional classroom. We toss around phrases like ‘real world problem solving’ every day, but this month we haven’t just been thinking outside the box, have been venturing outside of it as well.

At the beginning of the month, 11th graders traded in the big yellow school bus for a train ticket and headed to Wall Street for the day. For some, this was one of the first times taking a train or a subway into Manhattan without their parents. For most of us – including our fellow commuters – it was the first experience of chaperoning more than 30 teens through public transportation! The walking tours brought history and economics to life, and certainly the students learned from the experience in both academic and non-academic ways.

Juniors also took their academic learning on the road by teaching an interactive lesson from our Gender Issues unit to 9th grade social studies or 11th grade law, economics, or global issues classes. Groups presented a wide array of topics including, but not limited to: “Women in STEM: Looking at Inequality through an Economic Lens”, “Gender Bias in Custody Cases in Family Court”, “Marriage and Early Pregnancy: A Comparative Look at Niger and the United States”, “Parental Leave Inequality: U.S. vs. Europe” and the gender wage gap. InLab students are outstanding ambassadors representing our program in the wider GHS community.

Aristotle’s words aptly reflect students’ experiences leading up to the successful Arch Street Exhibition of Student Prototypes and Design, our second combined sophomore/junior exhibition of work. The projects celebrated the learning process and progress they made in STEM. Hearing the students share their reflections about their learning is a powerful experience. They were articulate in discussing the role of struggle and failure in progress, as many of the projects were still in development. Because the focus was on the experience of learning and solving problems, what might traditionally be deemed “mistakes” become valuable opportunities for growth. The students’ gratification and pride was palpable! Check out the article, photos, and video clips in the Greenwich Free Press.

Our busy month continues next week with a trip to the Stamford Courthouse to observe the legal process in action. We conclude May with, arguably, the highlight of the year: presentations of learning. Innovation Lab students prepare full-length summative Presentations of Learning each spring through which they reflect, both in writing and in panel discussions, on their growth and learning.  To prepare for their PoLs, students analyze the academic, personal, and interpersonal capacities articulated in the Greenwich Public Schools Vision of the Graduate to reflect upon areas of strength and areas for growth as demonstrated using specific examples from their project work in both STEM and Humanities courses. Our first June blog will share PoL highlights from sophomores and juniors.

So as we continue to step out of the classroom to learn and to share, we reflect on the value of living our learning.


“Don’t just learn, experience.

Don’t just read, absorb.

Don’t just change, transform.

Don’t just relate, advocate.

Don’t just promise, prove.

Don’t just criticize, encourage.

Don’t just think, ponder.

Don’t just take, give.

Don’t just see, feel.

Don’t just dream, do.

Don’t just hear, listen.

Don’t just talk, act.

Don’t just tell, show.

Don’t just exist, live.”

― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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1 Response to Experiential Learning: Outside the Proverbial Box

  1. Lisa Papas says:

    Thanks Ms. Hawes to you and all the teachers! It’s been a great year! Love that poem!

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