Leaning into Experiential Learning

With our clear focus on building all the skills and muscles that our girls will need to leave us ready and excited to have an impact on the world, it is particularly important that we weave many moments into their time at Ellis when they tussle with real-world challenges, problems, and opportunities.
I am proud of the many ways in which our outstanding faculty build such experiences into their classes, whether through field trips, guest presenters, work with outside community clients on design projects, science experiments, debates in history classes, or research papers. These experiences are a part of our curriculum that is constantly evolving, with topics and issues that are timely and relevant.

Our students don’t always find these to be the easiest or simplest parts of their work. Real-world experiences and problems are, by their nature, often more complicated than textbook problems or traditional in-class learning. But that’s the real beauty of these experiences. They are messier, the solutions are not already known, the work hasn’t already been figured out by someone else. And many of these types of experiences require students to work in groups. Navigating differing approaches, opinions, styles, and personalities can be challenging for students (and adults!), but that challenge is such a healthy one. One of the great advantages of building these kinds of experiences into daily life at Ellis is that it allows our teachers to do so in ways that are developmentally appropriate and provide just the right balance of student stretch and teacher support.

Some of my favorite moments each year are hearing our older students talk about their best memories from their time at Ellis. Experiences like the ones I’ve described above always rise to the top—a special community field trip in Lower School, a difficult but ultimately rewarding robotics design group project in Middle School, a fierce debate in an Upper School history class. These are stories of students being stretched so that important life-long muscles are built.

Here’s to exciting real-world learning!