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Integrated Education
Parchment Middle School

Experiential Learning

I’ve always been a “let’s try it” type of person. If you were to explain an assignment to me in five different languages, using multiple examples, various visual aids, and a whole slew of technology, I would still prefer to actually try it out for myself. Experiential education or kinesthetic learning is the concept of acquiring information by doing and has become very uncommon within the education system. This is where the idea of camp to classroom was brought to light – let’s take kids out of their element to learn and grow by being outdoors, participating in activities, and gaining surface skills like how to shoot a bow and arrow and then debriefing to gain those profound lessons, to understand why we did what we did.

Success for every child is the goal. You don’t need to be an educator to know that not every child excels in the classroom or academically. We are not aiming to increase academic performance (although it does result), we are aiming to teach kids how to solve problems with peers, communicate more effectively, develop independence and be able to think critically.

“A health teacher creates a circulatory obstacle course to teach students how exercise makes the heart stronger. The students pretend they are different parts of the circulatory system (blood, heart, lungs) and get to actively learn how the body works and how to keep it healthy.

A math teacher demonstrates positive and negative integers by creating a human number line going from the shortest person to the tallest. The person in the middle becomes “zero” and to his or her right are the negative integers (descending by height) and to the left are positive integers (ascending by height).

An elementary language arts teacher teaches the editing of sentences by having students “walk through” unedited sentences (a step per word) and using specific movements assigned to capitalization, punctuation, etc. (e.g. a capitalized letter is represented by raising both hands in the air and an exclamation point is represented by jumping up and down in place).”   
How do you do this at camp? Take a group of kids into the woods and give them the scenario of being stranded in the forest after their plane crash-landed. What ensues? Initially, everyone begins working on their own or in pairs without a real direction in mind. As time passes, they begin to realize the importance of individual responsibilities, pairs become teams and teams develop assignments. Delegation occurs, acknowledgment of personal responsibility, followed by critical thinking of “how?” this will get done. Every part is a learning experience and on the outside looking in, it simply looks and feels like a fun game. And this is why I do what I do, because camp is pivotal to success in education, retaining information, and growth, confidence, and character.
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

Submitted by Emily Briggs
Experiential Director
Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center