Experiential Learning at Inly: Learning By Doing

“Education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Experiential learning (“learning by doing” or “hands-on learning”) permeates every part of the Inly curriculum at all levels. It is an approach to education that actively engages students in relevant, authentic experiences that reinforce academic lessons or teach life skills. These hands-on experiences deepen a student’s understanding and have a lasting impact. Through experiential learning, students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge on their own instead of relying solely on the experiences of others.

At Inly, we refer to experiential learning that happens outside of the classroom as “Field Studies,” and this is exactly how we approach and think about them. Our Field Studies are integrated thoughtfully into what our students are learning in the classrooms and naturally extends their learning out into the world. Ultimately, venturing out into the world is at the heart of experiential learning. Our field studies give students the chance to explore in distinctive steps that have been thoughtfully created to support each student’s development and the curriculum in which they are currently immersed.

The 3rd years at Inly, for example, spend one night away at Camp Wing in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Inly’s 4th and 5th years venture farther, and spend two nights at Ferry Beach Ecology Program in Sacco, Maine. Our sixth grade students spend two nights sleeping outside in tents at Camp Chewonki in Wiscasset, Maine, and raise funds for and plan their own sixth grade trip. By 7th and 8th grade, our students begin and end the year with off-sites that involve rowing to and camping on the Boston Harbor Islands, sailing on a schooner with Ocean Classroom or living in global village with Heifer International at Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts. During their middle school years at Inly, students also have the opportunity to host students from Guatemala, travel to New York City to participate in Montessori programs at the United Nations, and participate in three, one-week long internships in a place of business in the community.

There is a natural and carefully considered progression to these experiences as our students mature. But each experience, from the very beginning, requires responsibility and independence. It requires each of our students to build self-confidence and to recognize, “I am an individual and I am away from my family right now but I’m in a supportive environment and surrounded by people I love and who love me. I’m going to figure out who I am in this experience and I will be OK.” This realization allows our students to grow and succeed. In this stretching of themselves, they become more independent, more self-reliant, more confident, and more capable. This learning carries back into the classroom and into their lives.

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