By Katy Long, MEd
Online Faculty, College of Education
Most people associate the word “learning” with school. While learning should and does take place in schools, real-world, authentic learning experiences are just as important for students.
Students need opportunities to practice, apply and discuss in context the concepts they are learning within the four walls of their classroom.
With budget cuts plaguing education and a strong focus on assessments, it seems students are going on field trips less and less. Although students spend most of their time learning in the classroom, there are a variety of ways students can learn outside of the classroom, all year long.
Take a Field Trip
There are a variety of places in most cities that offer engaging learning experiences. Places like science centers, museums and cultural centers offer a wide selection of activities in which children can learn about numerous science topics, historical events and cultures.
Many of these locations offer summer camps for children as well as accommodations for field trips during the school year. In addition, children have the opportunity to make connections between what they learn in the classroom and what they experience at one of these settings, furthering their comprehension and possibly their interest in the topics.
Join a Team
Athletics are a great way for students to learn not only the skills of a particular sport, but also the proper social skills needed to be able to effectively work with others. As a college athlete, I feel strongly that athletics teach many intangibles that are not always learned at home or in the classroom.
Places like the YMCA and other youth organizations provide structured sports clinics and leagues in which children can learn and grow as a person and athlete. In addition, participating in the performing arts, such as theater, band, choir, etc. is a fantastic way to learn about art, music, dance and culture while gaining social skills.
Simple outings to places like the grocery store, gas station or the mall can prove to be a learning experience. Asking children to give directions for locating an item on the shelf in the grocery store, or calculating how much it will cost to fill up a 25-gallon tank with gas are great techniques for allowing children to practice and apply skills they learn in school.
Make a trip to the bowling alley a learning experience by having children keep their own score and calculate the cost of snacks, including the tax that will be applied. Oftentimes, if arranged ahead of time, there are many places such as news stations and candy stores that will take people behind the scenes to learn about the ins and outs of that particular job or production.
In order to embrace the idea that we are lifelong learners, taking advantage of non-traditional learning opportunities for children and adults alike can be engaging and productive. Learning in the above mentioned ways can help spark a love of learning in children and help them discover their interests. When they get back into the classroom, they will have more background knowledge to build from which can cause them to be more engaged in learning, all year long.
Looking for more ways to help your students learn all year long? Check out these great resources from the College of Education’s faculty.
More about Katy:
Katy Long is currently a full-time online instructor for the College of Education. Her educational experiences include attending Central College in Pella, IA where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and a minor in Spanish. She went on to graduate from Northern Arizona University in 2010 with a Master of Education in school counseling. She is currently working on her doctor of education in organizational leadership with an emphasis in organizational development through GCU. She has 11 years of teaching experience and began her teaching career in Des Moines, IA, where she taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade Spanish, as well as served as the middle school’s bilingual community liaison. After three years there, she moved to Phoenix to teach sixth grade at a Title I school. She has served as an adjunct instructor at GCU’s traditional campus for more than two years and has been an online full-time faculty member with the college for the last two years.