Experiential Education: Risk and Resilience, Confidence and Community!
Grade level experiential education (EE) trips challenge students and build community. One tenth grade advisory offers the student perspective on what makes EE a great part of their KIS experience.
Ask students what they enjoyed most about EE, and many will start with the bus ride. Every EE trip begins with travel time that gives students a chance to talk with friends. If your typical day is fully scheduled, having an hour to chat with classmates feels good!
This fall, the tenth grade spent a day at an adventure gym. Students had access to multiple sports challenges including a climbing wall, trampolines, archery, pitching and batting cages, and mini playing fields or courts. A favorite was the high ropes course.
"I was nervous,” says Jeanna. She briefly thought about turning around at one point. Others had similar experiences, looking down and realizing how high they were, or feeling a small flare of fear at whether they could hold their balance.
Those feelings tell you something. A day of adventure and fun is great but physical challenges also give students practice checking in with their bodies. “Learning how to take healthy risks is important,” says Kim McKelvie, a PE teacher and tenth grade advisor.
Applied Learning Coordinator Sarah Muller designs EE trips to nudge students out of their comfort zone. “New experiences build resilience,” she says, “which is a trait we need when we encounter change or disappointment.”
Luke surprised himself at the end of the high ropes course. “I was a little shaky,” he says, “but it felt good. I was proud of myself.” An adrenaline rush and endorphin high are a natural part of movement and healthy risk. Exercise supports brain development too. We need a balance of activity between our body and mind. The day at an adventure gym reminded students that play is important!
Connecting with others is valuable too. Tenth grade lead Daphne Chandra appreciates that EE gives students a unique opportunity to connect with their peers. Ms. Chandra wants students to create strong bonds in their advisory groups too. “The feeling of knowing everyone gives a huge sense of belonging, trust, and safety,” she says, “and that builds community and school spirit.”
Indeed, when you ask tenth grade students about their EE memories, most remember strengthening friendships on their first overnight trips in elementary school, to Suwon or a glamping site. They remember mosquito bites, hiking, games, late night talking, the sunrise, and, of course, the bus ride.