Experiential learning during Covid-19?? Six easy suggestions!
Updated: Oct 4, 2021
It’s no exaggeration to say that us teachers are exhausted right now. Hybrid learning has us planning two lessons for every class we teach, we’re all first year teachers again despite the years we’ve got under our belt, as simply, nothing can prepare us for this, and connecting with students virtually is downright tiring.
However, I’m still struck and in awe at my fellow colleagues who are adapting their lessons and teaching, and constantly thinking about innovative ways to ensure the students have the best educational experience possible. And I find it truly inspiring, which pushes me to do my best too. (Of course, there are also times when I’m satisfied with ‘just enough’!!!)
But I thought I would share with you some of the things that I have seen and some of the things that I have tried based around ‘How can we allow students to benefit from experiential learning during the pandemic?’
First thing to note - we’re all experiencing very different rates of Covid-19 and are following different restrictions, so please only use any of these suggestions if they are compatible with your school’s or district’s guidelines.
1. Bring the experts to you
If you can’t go into the field to meet experts, ask them to join your class virtually! This one actually makes it easier to bring outside people and voices ‘into the classroom’. The other day I asked Malika Jacobs to join my Entrepreneurship class and talk to the students about what it’s like to be a Founder of her business, Kingmakers. A trip to Ohio in a 45 minute class period would have been impossible, but using Zoom, it was so simple and it was great to offer the students the opportunity to chat with and ask questions to someone who has direct experience of what we’re studying.
2. Take your students on a virtual field trip
With Google maps, amazing interactive simulations and a huge variety of local online resources (check out Tourist Board and Visitor Center websites) the students can get a real sense of what the destination is really like. You could even go on Twitter/Instagram and look up hashtags of the location to see more recent personal photos. I don’t recommend having the students do this, rather do this yourself and take screenshots of the best images. Share those curated ones with the students - you just don’t know what the Hashtag Gods have in store for you and you might end up with the students discovering a bit more than they were looking for! If you like the idea of a virtual field trip but don’t have the energy to plan one (amen) then here are a couple that Greg and I made that might be useful (Field Trip to Machu Picchu and Field Trip to Mars)
3. Ask your students to plan a virtual field trip
Like the suggestion above, but this time the students do the hard work - EVEN BETTER! Put the students in groups and get them to either choose a destination or assign them one. They then have to plan and ‘chaperone’ the field trip for the other students. Not only will this get them searching and learning more about the destination, but leading the expedition during a later class offers them opportunities for leadership and logistic planning.
4. Keep it local, really local
We often think of experiential learning being about travelling to far and away places. But actually, students benefit from it just as much as if they stay close to what they’re used to, but are prompted to think about something in a different way. For example, instead of them playing basketball on their driveway, ask them to list all the different shapes that area is made up of. Or ask them to estimate the length or height of 6 different things and using the measuring app, see how far off they were. Now they’re out in their usual environment but having to look at it through a different lens - voila, experiential learning. I’ve also asked students to just go to their closest window and find something they’re curious about. It was in my physics class and we were talking about the need to ask questions and be curious, so we practised it and it was amazing to hear all the different things they came up with.
5. Practise observational skills all within their homes
As a part of experiential learning, students are able to notice and observe things they wouldn’t usually and then share those with others. This is a game I learned during my teacher training when we visited Kew Gardens in London. We had the students sit back to back, choose a plant they could see and describe it to their partner. The partner had to then draw what was described to them and they then get to turn around and see it. Obviously being in the same place and sitting back to back isn’t going to fly right now, but a virtual version of this game could be a great way to get students observing and describing. Have students pair up, choose an object (it could be anything or choose a theme linked to what you’re studying) then describe it to their partner without showing it to them. The big reveal can be pointing their camera at the object so the student who drew the object can see it.
6. Redesign a certain space
Ask students to redesign a certain location (either assign the location depending on what you’re studying or ask them to choose a public setting that is special to them) to make it more accessible to all people. Sinead Burke did a great TED talk about why design should include everyone and it’s a great way to get students to examine their biases, their assumptions and develop empathy. And doing a design challenge of a particular space will ask them to use a variety of ways to imagine they are really in the space.
Hopefully you have found some of these suggestions helpful and if you try them, do let us know how you get on. If you also have any of your own ideas, please get in touch and we’ll include them in our next blog post!