Hands-on learning comes to life in local private schools

Life isn’t lived in the confines of a classroom. So it makes sense students would gain the most from experiencing the community, the people and the opportunities beyond the four walls of the school. Experiential learning and real world connections add immeasurable value to a child’s education – from kindergarten to high school.

In 2013, Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) – a nonprofit dedicated to hands-on teaching – published a report about how experiential learning can bridge the engagement gap so many schools face as children grow older and begin to lose their natural love of learning.

The report noted, “Hands-on activities rekindle a love of learning and connect abstract concepts to the real world — while achieving desired educational outcomes.”

RAFT also notes the positives of hands-on learning, including developing critical thinking skills, encouraging communication and teaching teamwork. These skills are beneficial well into adulthood as students pursue higher education and move into the workforce.

Experiential learning – everything from field trips to internships – are peppered throughout private school education around the Lowcountry. These programs are creating 21st-century leaders who are better prepared for real world success.

At Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, students of all ages participate in two service projects each year. It could be as simple as kindergartners spending time at the local senior center or all grade levels working together to support foster children in the community.

Those activities not only benefit the community but also introduce the children to other generations and foster mentoring between younger and older students, explained Steve Mandell, Head of School.

As part of Pinewood’s Leadership Institute, students complete a 30-hour internship before they graduate, giving them the chance to explore possible careers and work with a mentor.

They make real-world connections, Mandell said.

At University School of the Lowcountry in Mount Pleasant, students participate in more than 30 field trips each year along with a job shadowing program. They also administer exit polls on Election Day, offering statistical analysis and predictions on the outcome of local races.

While some schools are limiting the number of field trips, Pinewood Prep is taking its students to Bee City or on a barrier island eco-tour for science lessons. High school students spend a day learning teamwork on a challenge course.

Meeting other people and working with mentors – whether through school programs, Scouts or a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters – introduces students to new people and ideas. They have the chance to learn from people besides their parents and teachers, Mandell said.

“Giving your kids opportunities to have experiential learning is a real game changer,” he said.


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