What is your best place for experimental learning?

Vandana Parashar, PYP Coordinator at Pathways School, Noida, India

Vandana Parashar, the PYP Coordinator at Pathways School, Noida, India

This article illustrates how students explored the role of demand and supply under the transdisciplinary theme ‘How we organize ourselves’ in their direct surrounding, the school. 

Exploring the immediate surrounding: our school

In schools, there is usually quite a lot of emphasis on taking students out for field trips and excursions in the name of ‘experiential learning’ and we sometimes overlook a valuable and accessible resource: our school. The relevance and importance of an outdoor excursion is not to be debated here, but when it comes to taking students through an ‘experience’ which helps them make connections with the recent/past learning; ask questions; probe further; think a step higher; make new meanings and draw conclusions, then sometimes it is appropriate that we begin with our immediate surroundings. It is familiar, safe and manageable area to explore for the students.

I try and look for connections within the immediate environment first before looking for a field trip destination. Our school has provided several opportunities to engage students with existing systems and yet result in new learning. Approaching these familiar systems in a new context allows students to see beyond what they see every day.

Benefits?

  • Students are more comfortable in a known place so they are able to interact with people more confidently and with ease.
  • Students can go out and approach the designated place or people anytime of the day, at their convenience. In case they missed out on any information, they can always revisit and complete their task.
  • They get to ‘know’ people by interacting with them and questioning them about their work.
  • It develops a stronger understanding of the school learning community and how systems work.

During a unit on economics under the transdisciplinary theme How we organize ourselves, we were exploring the role of demand and supply. Students identified eight areas in school where they could see the ‘demand and supply relationship’. We went to the admissions department, medical room, stationery store, printer room, cafeteria, transport department, library and uniform shop to find out what is in ‘demand’ in their area and what they ‘supply’. Students wanted to find out if the demand varies through the day or months or years. They wanted to know how they maintain records; what systems they follow for efficient distribution; what their supply chain is and how maintaining records help them.

Through their questions, students gathered some data over the last 4 years and plotted graphs to see the trend. Their findings, through the analysis of data, were then shared with the School Executive committee. Students did not just present the findings in different areas, they also commented upon the efficiency of these systems – in terms of recording information and making use of historical data to predict. Subsequently, students also gave plausible suggestions on how to improve these systems.

Learning was immense and meaningful. My own faith in taking advantage of the immediate surroundings for meaningful learning was strengthened through this exercise.

Below are snapshots from students’ presentation:

Art 3 image 1

Art 3 image 2

Vandana Parashar has been a primary educator for the last 14 years in international schools from New Delhi to Tokyo and believes in good pedagogical practices and keeping her children happy and excited about every single moment of the day.

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7 Responses to What is your best place for experimental learning?

  1. Aruna 9 June 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    Hi Vandana
    A great read,especially when you translate your own experiences.
    Definitely we must dig into our existing resources rather than grab what is not with us. First it is essential to know our immediate surrounding and make the most of it . After this the curiosity to go further gets harnessed effectively.
    Aruna

    • Vandana 9 July 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Thank you Ms Aruna for echoing my thoughts. I am glad to share the same working space with you!

  2. Darcy 13 June 2016 at 10:29 am #

    A useful and thought-provoking read, thank you!
    My colleagues and I have often debated how ‘booking a destination that ticks the box of connecting to the community through a field trip’ could better be thought of as ‘providing meaningful inquiry experiences’. We have experimented with both and have found greater student agency and connection when experiences and issues are viewed and experienced on site. 🙂

    • Vandana 9 July 2016 at 8:22 am #

      Thanks Darcy for sharing your feedback! Connection to the community is certainly what makes learning more meaningful and permament. All the best for your next field trip! 🙂

  3. Giovanna 3 July 2016 at 2:40 am #

    Dear Vandana,
    this article shows not only a sample of good teaching practice but deeply your commitmet to encourage other teachers to look around school needs, facilities and resources to implement procedures that lead us to develop the IB learner profile. I am really please on how you go beyond contents by guiding your students to performa a proactive activity in which they first must have observed, inquired, reported and concluded to give suitable feedback that enrich the diffente areas they visited. Congratulations and keep on developing good teaching practices at school.

    • Vandana 9 July 2016 at 8:27 am #

      Dear Giovanna, I am glad that you found this post relevant and engaging. It’s always a pleasure to see children getting soaked into ‘constructing meaning for themselves’. As a teacher, that has been my source of energy and strength. 🙂

  4. John Nairn 20 August 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Hi there Vandana,

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Reinforces the importance of allowing students to make authentic real life connections based on their own understandings.

    John

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