On account of experiential learning, the fourth graders at the Charlotte Lab school in Charlotte, North Carolina, hosted a pop-up market at their school in order to demonstrate the importance of a balanced diet. They worked with the local public market to learn about how food gets to their plates from the farm. The prepared healthy meals to share with their schoolmates, in the process they learnt about nutrition, healthy eating, and the food system. This kind of learning is called experiential learning. “What we do with our students is real work that real people do in real situations,” said Mary Moss, who is the founder and executive director of the Charlotte Lab School.
Moss and her colleague Kaylee Whitelaw, a teacher at the school, explained their method to a group of middle school and elementary educators who came to Northeastern University’sBoston campus to learn how they too could provide their students with opportunities for experiential learning. “We know how transformative an experiential education can be for students,” said Ellen Stoddard, a research assistant at Northeastern University and part of the network, which uses the acronym NExT. “The goal is to build those pathways for students before they even get to college.”
Nate Pruett, one member at Network of Experiential Learning Educators (NExT) conference said that we have to challenge every single assumption we’ve ever had in education, the majority of assumptions we have about education are not healthy for our kids. “We’re all here because we’re frustrated with the current system,” he said. “It starts with something as basic as letter grades. Do you know how unhealthy grades are for the teenage mind? We’re being deleterious to that child’s brain by putting a false economy in front of them that prioritizes strict adherence to a rubric rather than students’ passions and motivations.”
Nearly 100 educators participated in a three-day conference for members of the Network for Experiential Teaching and Learning. As a leader in the field of experiential learning, Northeastern University created the network in order to connect K-12 educators across the US and Canada who were interested in experiential learning with each other as well as with the resources they need to develop experiential learning programs at their schools.