Experience-Driven Learning in Our Own Backyards

For the first week of Session 6, Spark heroes and guides found themselves working out how to best navigate a virtual landscape. Confined to our houses, we interacted by Zoom calls and did our best to carve out space to learn in our living and dining rooms. Under these circumstances, how does a school that uses real-life experiences to explore the world carry on with this crucial component of our learning design?

The answer for Spark Studio lies in our newest project series—the Backyard Biome. Through this unit, we use experiential learning to examine the parts of the ecosystem that interact to create the natural world. We use magnifying glasses and binoculars to observe the plants and animals in our neighborhoods. We record our findings in nature journals. We dig our fingers into dirt as we learn about its many layers. We plant seeds and watch as they use the energy of the sun to grow throughout the session. We collect the different elements of the ecosystem in jars—plants, animals, soil, water, air, and sun—and ponder how they all might work together. All the while, we are having fun and getting our hands dirty in the truest sense of the word!

By doing this, heroes see, experience, and think about the environment in new ways. We also subtly integrate other topics important to their learning and development. As we turn on all our senses to experience our environment—sight, smell, hearing, touch, and (occasionally) taste—we are grounding ourselves in the present moment, practicing the mindfulness we talk about so often. We learn alongside our parents and siblings, which helps us deepen and expand our family relationships. And the heroes work on writing, drawing, vocabulary, critical thinking, and their powers of observation. It’s a truly multi-disciplinary way to learn, and we can do it all from home!

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