Friday, August 20, 2010

Experiential Learning

A walk along Boston's Freedom Trail recently reminded us of the importance of learning by experience. This is something that can benefit young people -- and their parents -- in a number of ways. Walking through Independence Hall in Philadelphia on a hot summer's day can help a history student imagine what the Founding Fathers must have felt like when the heat of their debates was matched by the heat of their meeting place.

Have you ever visited a science museum where they helped children extract their own DNA from a cheek swab, using a test tube and chemicals? As the DNA comes together to form a distinctive form within the tube, the concept of this individual building block becomes very real. Looking inside an early space capsule at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. gives a real sense of how the first astronauts must have felt in their tiny home in space.

But it's not just museums and historical sites that allow young people to enjoy experiential learning. Travel to any new place -- or a deeper exploration of a familiar location -- can bring ideas to life. Even a trip to a supermarket, equipped with a list and a budget, can give children experiences in fields ranging from mathematics to nutrition to reading.

Some schools have already opened for the year. Others will open in the next several weeks. But as we leave behind the slower pace of summer, perhaps your family can still find the time for short trips, or more local experiences, that can bring learning to life in very practical ways. And, if you are on the Freedom Trial, do try the pastries at Mike's in Boston's North End!

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