I love the idea behind this guest post by my daughter-in-law, Rachel Friedrichs, a high school teacher in Boston. I’m already thinking about how it could be adapted in different school settings.
I am a teacher at an independent high school in Massachusetts. Every year, for one week in March, we create opportunities for the students to learn outside the classroom. We call it Exploration Week.
Based on the idea that there are many ways to learn, the students choose from a variety of programs, including: intensive glass blowing, nature writing in the Grand Canyon, working on construction sites for Habitat for Humanity, a creative writing workshop, a historic trip through the south, ‘culture vultures’, where the students take in a variety of cultural activities around Boston, and urban farming.
The trip that I co-chaperoned this year took 18 students to New Orleans to volunteer for the St. Bernard project, which is continuing the efforts to rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina (still in desperate need 6.5 years later!)
As you can see from the selection above, some of the trips are local, while some students travel. Some programs are arts related, some volunteer based, and others are outdoors. Some programs are free, while some are quite costly. These trips are powerful for a variety of reasons.
- Students bond with kids from other classes who they might not know.
- Given the rather competitive academic climate in Boston private schools, we are sending the message that there are lots of ways to learn about the world around you and yourself.
- We emphasize the importance of communal engagement.
- The idea that learning can be fun, and fun can be educational permeates the spirit of the week
- The rhythm of the school-year is broken up giving the kids a little charge for the remainder of the year.
- Students and teachers get to know each other in a different context.
- Many of these programs capitalize on skills/talents/strengths of the kids which can often get neglected in classroom study.
I realize that it’s a true privilege to participate in Exploration Week and teach at a school that prioritizes this type of learning enough to break from ‘regular classroom studies.’ I wonder, however, if there are ways that schools with smaller budgets and tighter schedules can incorporate some aspects of ‘ExploWeek’ into their school culture.
So do I… (Ed.)