There are many ways to learn…

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.)

6 thoughts on “There are many ways to learn…

  1. Our school does PINS every term and it runs one morning and one afternoon for five weeks. This is where parents, students, teachers, plus other people in the community with passions interests and skills run workshops. These workshops are either free or only cost a little. My Six year old did sewing and made her own puffles and a very large cloak. My eight year old did guitar one day and nerf wars on the other day. Don’t knock nerf wars they learnt so much about working together and building alliances. It was run by another eight year old. There were lots of other choices to from building skate ramps to clowning to landscaping to painting. I guess what I am saying is if it is too expensive or tricky to get out in the community bring it to your school.


  2. Hi Edna, I enjoyed your post on the many ways to learn. Just wanted to share that I too was in New Orleans a month or so ago serving with a rebuilding project call Project Homecoming. We went as a group of alumni from Pepperdine University. I’m old enough that it was George Pepperdine College when I attended. Never to old for some new learning and serving. The alumni had a terrific time and also pounded a few nails. Service projects are especially exciting, educational, and inspirational for young people. Keep up the wonderful writing/blogging and a BIG Texas THANK YOU for your contributions to kids and teachers around the globe.


    1. Thanks, Rich. Sounds interesting! Love the principle of never to old to learn something new… that’s me too 🙂
      You did notice, didn’t you that the post wasn’t by me?!


  3. I love this idea. One school here has clubs. Each semester, students pick from a variety of clubs that interest them. On Friday, they go to their clubs for the last hour of the day. They get a chance to find out more about a topic that interests them and get a chance to collaborate with students that are not typically in their class. The students enjoy the clubs and learn in the process.


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