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Blyth-Templeton Blog

Colleges Value Experiential Learners—Here’s Why We Think K-12 Schools Should Too

[fa icon="calendar"] 2/7/19 2:39 PM / by Blyth-Templeton Academy

Blyth-Templeton Academy

teacher-leads-experiential-field-trip-in-meadow-with-studentsDid you know that a stunning 60% of college students are in need of remedial instruction when they enter their freshman year? This lack of preparedness is a testament to the flawed nature of the typical K-12 school system.

There is also a concerning readiness gap in areas that are less tangible than explicit math or language arts skills. Critical thinking, self-motivation, and creativity are just a few of the essential skills that incoming college freshmen should possess in order to maximize the freedom and opportunity of the typical four-year college education.

Keep reading for an exploration of how experiential learning at the middle and high school level is the key to helping students succeed when applying to and attending colleges.

Experiential Learning and College Applications

Experiential learning helps students stand out during the college application process.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the college application process has grown increasingly competitive. Due partially to grade inflation, a stellar GPA alone is not sufficient to guarantee admission to most universities. Furthermore, standardized test scores no longer carry as much weight as they did in the past, as recent research has shown that they are not a strong predictor of success in college.

This changing approach to college admissions means that admissions counselors are increasingly looking for students who stand out from the crowd. Students that have a strong sense of identity and who have concrete accomplishments, experiential learning examples, and experiences that they can discuss in a college essay or interview have a definite advantage. The atmosphere of an experiential learning school like Blyth-Templeton Academy is ideal for students to create unique projects and pursue subjects that they’re passionate about.

Experiential K-12 Schools Teach Students About Intrinsic Motivation

K-12 schools that value experiential learning recognize the importance of intrinsic motivation.

Most K-12 schools focus on student achievement rather than motivation. This singular focus on achievement, which emphasizes only the importance of grades and test scores, has resulted in an increasing number of students feeling bored and disengaged from learning. This lack of motivation becomes a huge problem in a less-structured university environment, where there is a greater need for students to be interested in what they are learning and push themselves to succeed. Fostering intrinsic motivation during middle and high school is crucial to ensuring academic success in higher education.

In a K-12 experiential learning environment, students are engaged through real-world experience and self-directed projects. From a young age, they are guided by teachers to chose project topics, manage their time, and take responsibility for their own learning.

Experiential Learning and Creative Thinking Go Hand in Hand

Experiential learning creates students who are comfortable with creative, complex thinking.

Did you know that creativity is a skill that can be learned? An article in Forbes explores the necessity of creativity in the educational system.

"The world needs creative thinkers in all disciplines; people who can tackle complex challenges and develop innovative solutions. Yet our educational system focuses on teaching students “convergent thinking” — how to solve problems that have one correct answer (already known), instead of teaching students “divergent thinking” — how to come up with multiple solutions to open-ended, unscripted problems. It is these types of open-ended and complex problems they will face as they pursue future careers."

An atmosphere of experiential learning is conducive to developing students’ creative capacities, ultimately providing them with the ability to handle complex problems in the professional world. Too often, students don’t have the opportunity to think creatively until they enter a college environment, but K-12 schools that emphasizes this aspect of education can enable children to think innovatively at a much younger age.

Experiential Learning Turns Experience and Knowledge into Real-World Application 

Being able to translate real-world experience into learning and learning into practical, real-world implications is an invaluable ability that benefits students before, during, and even after they graduate from college.

The most successful college students are those who are attuned to the world around them, and children who are spending their school days primarily with textbooks and teachers' lectures are not always engaging with their surroundings in a productive way. They are learning passively, not actively.

The four stages of experiential learning that we emphasize at Blyth-Templeton Academy are key to helping students develop these elusive skills. By undergoing tangible experiences, reflecting on their observations, creating a new concepts based on the knowledge from their experiences, and testing the validity of the concepts they’ve created, students become increasingly aware of the relationship between academic knowledge and day-to-day life.

At BTA, we offer an experiential learning model that mirrors the creative, self-directed atmosphere that students will find in higher education. In addition to preparing students to excel in college, our environment provides them with skills that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Want more information about experiential learning? We have a full resource dedicated to exploring what it is and what it means for your child: Beyond the Desk-Experiential Learning.

Explore the Resource

Topics: skills for the future, lifelong learning, experiential learning

Blyth-Templeton Academy

About Blyth-Templeton Academy

Blyth-Templeton Academy is an experiential micro school located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. It offers an academically rigorous 9-12th-grade high school curriculum designed to foster intellectual curiosity through active learning and community exploration. The small class sizes ensure that each student has a front row seat in classes with an average size of 8. Our model combines a warm, inviting atmosphere with great teaching that allows our students to flourish. Schedule a visit soon.

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Blyth-Templeton Academy voted a top DC high school for 2018 by readers of the Washington City Paper