US schools championing transformational character education through experiential learning

Source: North Country School / Facebook
Source: North Country School / Facebook

Every stage of a child’s growth is important and has a crucial impact on their future success as well as their well-being. The right education is fundamental to a child’s growing mind, body and soul. As soon as they can, they need to cultivate the linguistic and problem-solving skills that will be much needed when they reach adulthood. 

Subjects like maths, science and languages are essential for kids, but it’s equally vital for them to learn soft skills too. Experiential learning does this best, and guarantees transformational character education in the process. Children need more than just content-based learning — they need to be raised with critical thinking, goal setting and reflection with core values like trustworthiness, respect, and responsibility in mind.

Through experiential learning, students can access unique opportunities that are not commonly provided for in traditional or outmoded classrooms. The result? Thriving students in college, university and beyond. If this is the journey you envision for your child, consider these US schools below:

North Country School

Situated in the heart of the beautiful six-million-acre Adirondack Park, North Country School’s (NCS) 220-acre protected mountain campus offers young minds the opportunity to explore their interests through the vast number of activities and curricula that are available. Students grades 4-9 follow NCS’s carefully-crafted programmes that seek to enlighten, spark and engage the minds of children like no other school. 

An NCS boarding school education is enriching and humanistic, rooted in respect and responsibility for self, others, and the environment. It is more than academic — it is experiential, hands-on and place-based, founded on the progressive tradition of John Dewey. Signature programmes — Farm and Garden, Arts and Outdoors — are at the heart of it all.

Imagine students learning measurement and computer skills by tracking the weights of newborn lambs; exploring anatomy by reassembling chicken skeletons; writing persuasive letters to elected officials; processing wool from the school’s own sheep for the fibre arts department; and creating metal sculptures and murals in industrial arts, stagecraft, and the theatre department.

In small classes averaging eight to 10 students — NCS’s school-wide teacher-to-student ratio is 3:1 — and with the Adirondack Mountain setting as a living laboratory and an extension of their classroom, NCS students learn by doing. More importantly, they take part in a well-rounded, hands-on experience that prepares them for the top secondary school, colleges, and beyond. To learn more about how NCS equips graduates with leadership skills, curiosity, and compassion, click here.

Burr and Burton Academy

Burr and Burton Academy (BBA) holds a proud tradition of educating and guiding students from all walks of life through their specialised experiential learning. Source: Burr & Burton Academy / Facebook

Burr and Burton Academy

Situated at the foot of Mt. Equinox and overlooking picturesque Manchester Village in Vermont, Burr and Burton Academy (BBA) holds a proud tradition of educating and guiding students from all walks of life through their specialised experiential learning.

Offering 170 academic courses for over 700 students from grades nine to 12, BBA emphasises real-life applications of their programmes. Courses like food and farm studies, English language development, social studies and creative arts all apply experiential learning to ensure students have a tight grasp on what they are studying.

Students in BBA are given the freedom of choice, allowing them to personalise their education journey by enabling them to pursue optional courses such as off-campus internships, dual enrolment college courses, independent study and vocational courses. 

“Our philosophy is simple: hire the best teachers, provide superb facilities, nurture a culture that values achievement in all its forms, celebrate the many accomplishments of our students, and strive for excellence in everything we do,” says Mark H. Tashjian, Headmaster. “We take a broad view of education and recognise the vital role that academics, athletics and the arts each play in preparing students for the 21st century.”

Gould Academy

Gould Academy encourages its students to be actively involved in shaping their education journey, seizing opportunities that allow them to expand their learning beyond the classroom. Source: Gould Academy / Facebook

Gould Academy

Nestled in the White Mountains of western Maine, Gould Academy is a small, co-ed, independent boarding school for grades eight to postgraduate.  Teachers, staff and administrators here are passionate about preparing academically motivated students for college. They guide them every step of the way from day one, helping them to become independent-minded, ethical citizens who will lead lives of purpose, action, excellence, and compassion in a rapidly changing world.   

Gould Academy’s experiential learning educates its students to be hands-on with real-world situations to have a taste of the field that might pique their interests. 

In love with robotics? Explore school’s Navy-class REMUS submarine in the local pond. Prefer the rugged outdoors? Gould has 40 kilometres of trails where students can explore using their mountain bikes or build their very own skis in the IDEAS Centre (which stands for Innovation, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Arts, and Science). Students are allowed to choose their preferred options to create their ideal programme.

That’s not all. Students have woken up for sunrise skins (sometimes followed by powder turns), jumped into icy waters, and tested gravity and their tolerance for heights. 

There are opportunities for those who want to step out of their comfort zone and immerse themselves in other cultures. Gould students can choose to live and study in Spain for the spring trimester or take part in a shorter two-week spring trip; join an exchange programme; and travel to China, Ecuador, Tanzania, Guatemala, and more.

Wyoming Seminary

Studying at Wyoming Seminary means learning alongside a diverse student body with students from more than 30 countries. Source: Wyoming Seminary

Wyoming Seminary 

If you’re looking for a school that combines a world-class experience both inside and outside the classroom, then Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School is the place for you. Located in the scenic Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, Wyoming Seminary is an independent college preparatory boarding school with a curriculum that benefits students of different passions and interests.

Here, students learn within a diverse cohort of students from more than 30 countries. They offer more than 160 courses and 22 Advanced Placement classes. STEM-based learning, for instance, is infused into its curriculum, extracurricular clubs and activities, as well as their surrounding community through a lecture series and Saturday events. There is a STEM/STEAM Concentration and a Climate Science and Sustainability Concentration, both of which are four-year programmes that allow students to specialise in their studies, similar to a major in university.

Students can choose from numerous clubs and activities to develop their passions and interests outside of the classroom. With more than 20 sports offerings for both boys and girls and over 40 clubs ranging from academic to social and community service, students are spoiled for choice.

Its safe location is highly appealing — the campus is a stone’s throw away from coffee shops, shopping malls, sports arenas, and theatres. Wyoming Seminary is within driving distance to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International