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Experiential Learning: Exploring Hands on, Gifted and Talented Learning

Arches Academy is the only school in Utah Valley that provides interactive, gifted and talented level educational

experiences for all students. Through our non-traditional, project-based approach, we empower

students to think innovatively, engage in collaborative groups, create meaningful connections through an inclusive

global mindset, and develop their innate creative and curious energy. One of the ways we accomplish this is by providing our students with experiential learning opportunities.

Experiential learning is the process of learning by doing. By engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are better able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

Let's look at an example. In Prekindergarten the teacher would read the well-loved book "If You Give a Moose a Muffin." After a fun discussion of the reading, students then get to embark on a field trip

to a local bakery to see firsthand how muffins are made and how a bakery works. Back in the classroom, students have the opportunity to apply what they learn by baking their own muffins. During this activity, they take it even deeper by learning about the importance of each ingredient in the muffin recipe. They answer questions like "Where does the flour come from?" "Where do blueberries grow?" After the muffins finish baking, the students will get to taste their recipe while learning about moose—their appearance, the habitats they live in, and the foods that moose typically eat. To further extend their learning, the playhouse in their classroom becomes a pretend bakery where kids can take on different roles as they pretend to be the baker, or a customer buying goods. This fun form of play can now extend the children's learning to ideas of money and introducing math concepts, and so on.

This type of learning creates opportunities for students to discover knowledge firsthand and hands-on, instead of simply hearing or reading about others' experiences. Experiential learning offers several benefits, including the opportunity to immediately apply their learned knowledge, have access to real-time coaching and feedback, and participate in experiences where teamwork and communication skills are developed.

This type of learning can also be applied to students in the older classes. During the 4th grade unit on the Civil War, students don't just read facts about the war. Instead, they choose a persona to research and portray in various ways for re-enactments. They divide into two groups—the North and the South—with each student on the side of the historical figure they are portraying. As a class, they will read about the issues of the time, engage in discussion and debate, the most significant battles of the war, and specific details of each one. Finally, on a designated day, the entire class heads outside to the "battlefield" in their “battle dress” (blue or gray blazers with various "medals" sewn on—by the kids!) to re-enact these battles.

This activity is a favorite among most of the students. It is a carefully structured activity where the students show what they have learned about historical figures and events. In addition to the re-enactments, each student has an opportunity to share relevant information about their characters. These student presentations lead to a class discussion about the positive and negative attributes of their characters, and how these attributes helped them succeed, or contributed to their failures.

Learning about the Civil War this way teaches the students much more than they would have learned from simply reading a textbook chapter on the subject.

Experiential learning focuses on the hands-on approach, but that's not its only purpose. Experiential learning enables students to be Critical and Computational Thinkers, Connected Global Citizens, practice being Communicators and Community Builders, work as Collaborators, pursue their Curious and Inquisitive minds, and be Creative and Innovative (what we call the 7Cs!)

We believe in experiential learning because it is far superior to learning through lectures in a classroom. These kinds of experiences are unforgettable. Your child deserves to enjoy learning. Give the gift of experiential, hands on, gifted and talented learning to your student! Call and arrange a tour, or just drop by. We would love to show you more examples of how experiential learning is making the difference for so many kids here at Arches Academy.


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