The Importance of Experiential Learning

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When I was young, my mother used to tell me that I have 100 moles on my feet.  In the Philippines, having 100 moles on their feet means a person likes to travel and discover new places or someone who finds it hard to stay in one place. I am that type of person because I grab every opportunity that entails travelling. My first travel experience as a student was when I was in 4th grade. I signed up for the Girl Scouts in the Philippines (known as Pramuka in Indonesia). We would go on overnight camps in the mountains. We would build a bonfire, sing our scout songs, cook our own food using firewood, learn to navigate and sleep in tents. We would also meet scouts from other schools and make new friends. Even now, the memories of these camps are still clear in my mind. Being a Girl Scout has taught me to be creative and independent.

For high school, I moved to a Catholic school run by the St. Paul Sisters so my travel experiences were far different from what I had had in elementary. My trips this time were inclined to the Christian way of life and related to caring for the needy. We would go to prisons to give C

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High School Reunion, Chrismas 2013 in Antipolo Municipal Jail, Philippines

hristmas gifts to the prisoners. We would visit homes for the aged and listen to the old folks’ stories. Most of the time, we went to orphanages and performed for the children and distributed gifts. With these experiences, I realised how lucky I was to have a home and family who took care of all my needs. I realized that the prisoners, even though they had done something bad in the past, still needed to be cared for.  I learnt that our grandmas and grandpas should be appreciated and given time despite our busy schedule. My friends and I continued organizing trips like these even without our teachers or the nuns telling us. Now that we are all professionals, we conduct medical and dental missions (for those who have become doctors and dentists) or give free spiritual or legal advice (for those who have become priests, nuns or lawyers) or offer any services to prisoners, orphans or the elderly.

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The native Gaddang from Nueva Viscaya, Philippines

College was the most exciting part of my travel journey as a student.  For my social studies class in first year, we were required to live among three of the poorest sectors in our society – the factory workers, the farmers and the fisher folks. I chose the latter, so off I went to Laguna de Bay, a famous fishing area outside Manila, for four days.  I lived in a very small ‘floating’ wooden house with my foster family. The bamboo floor had spaces in between so that I could see the water underneath. While there, I listened to how they survived every single day. Some days were lucky, there was a nice catch, but some days were totally unfortunate with just a few to sell in the market, allowing only a little money to buy rice and salt. In my anthropology class in 3rd year, we went to interview the minority group in Nueva Vizcaya called Gaddang. It was a great feeling being able to interact with them rather than just see them in books or photographs. I learnt that although they have different beliefs and practices, we still have to respect them and recognize their contributions in our society.

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Michael Gerry Duwin Dela Zerna, founder and president of Guided and Unified Interaction for the Development of Children, Inc. (GUIDE, Inc), Bonds with one of GUIDE’s recipients

Right after graduating from college, I joined a non-governmental organization, GUIDE, Inc., that takes care of orphaned and special children. One of its aims is to motivate these children and develop their motor skills, creativity, self-esteem and sociability. The organization gathers donations from individuals and other organizations to hold 10-day summer camps for these children each year. My first camp was held in Marinduque, the farthest place I had been to in the Philippines that time.

Now that I’ve become a teacher, I want my students to have the same experiences as I had. I want them to be in the ‘real world’ and not confined to the comforts of their classrooms.  Experiential learning must be part of education. However, it must be authentic and not just only doing ‘hands-on’ activities. The children must be guided and reflection must always be part of every experience. Being an IB educator is like going back to my childhood because I experience a lot of exciting things, and what adds to the excitement this time is the fact that I plan the activities with my BINUS SCHOOL Simprug colleagues. Let me share with you some of the most memorable, meaningful and authentic experiential learning settings and situations I’ve experienced since becoming an IB educator:

How We Organize Ourselves

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Our students went to MPR-DPR Building, the seat of government for Indonesian legislative, to listen to one of the Indonesian parliament members talk about how the legislative branch of the government works. Our students participated in a tour of one of the museums inside where they learnt about the work of past leaders. There was also a question and answer forum in the room where the official meetings are held. The students were allowed to sit on the government officials’ chairs.

Sharing the Planet

sv5We learnt about different local and global issues, and one of them was pollution. Our students participated in a field trip to Bantar Gebang where all the garbage in Jakarta is dumped. There the students saw mountains of trash and realized the impact of their actions on the environment.  As part of their action, our students had a Charity Fair at school where second hand items brought from home were sold at a very cheap price. The money they collected was used to buy rice, oil, sugar and canned goods for the children at the local school inside Bantar Gebang. The project was an application of their learning that a person’s self-worth is reinforced and reflected in doing service to others.

Our students come from middle to upper class families. They have their own cooks, nannies and drivers. In an instant, most of them can have the food that they want. In Chiang Mai, our grade 4 students had a different experience. They gathered the vegetables that they needed from a farm, washed them, dressed the chicken, cut all the other ingredients and made fire to cook their food. Eating the food that they prepared themselves was an unforgettable experience for them as it taught them to be patient and independent. Not only that, they learnt to appreciate and respect the people who make food for them; from the farmers who plant the fruits and vegetables and raise the animals, to their nannies and cooks who serve them the finished product.

How We Express Ourselves

sv8Our Grade 5 students went to Bali for an immersion programme in preparation for their exhibition. They spent two meaningful days at the Green Camp, where they were taught how to decorate bags and make greeting cards using plants and recycled materials such as newspaper. The children realized that works of art do not only come from expensive materials. To be able to create an authentic work of art, an artist must be a thinker and an inquirer. One question students asked was “how do we turn these materials into artwork?”

How the World Works

During this unit, we learnt about the different sv9sources of energy, and one of them was the sun. The children inquired about the conversion of energy, they found out that the sun’s rays can be converted to heat energy which can then cook their s’mores. Learning that the sun is a renewable source of energy, the students recognized that solar cooking can be beneficial as it does not use our limited natural resources, thus it is good for the environment.

Who We Are

sv10As their summative task, the students conducted a campaign in school to promote healthy lifestyles. However, the unit did not just end there. As part of the action component, the school organized the “Healthy Green Walk and Ride” which aimed to raise awareness of the strategies people can follow to adopt a healthy lifestyle. These included promoting healthy living, and in doing so preventing illness, and reflecting on personal habits and making action plans.

These experiential learning engagements have proven to serve as a powerful motivator for our students. I have witnessed how effective they are in stirring up excitement, inspiring students throughout the learning process and practical experiences, broadening their perspective on lessons in the classroom and building motivation towards different subject areas. Experiential learning offers great opportunities for students to gain deeper understanding of the lessons being taught. Instead of just reading about the lessons, students can interact with each other and with their teachers in a less formal environment, where they have the opportunity to enrich their education with actual experiences. Most importantly, these authentic experiences provide opportunities for students to develop positive relationships and global citizenship, as well as provide opportunities to become internationally-minded which is the aim of IB.

I am grateful for my teachers who gave me opportunities to develop myself by providing me with great learning experiences. I am thankful to IB for their non-stop work on educating teachers on how to provide the most authentic learning experiences for the students. Lastly, I thank my mom for letting me explore the world around me. For the record, she still tells me I have a hundred moles on my feet.

By: Corita T. Silapan

Grade 5 Class Teacher and Level Head

BINUS SCHOOL Simprug

ctorregoza@binus.edu

 

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