Shelly Hope and Experiential Learning

In class on Tuesday Shelly Hope stopped by to share her experiences as a teacher using experiential learning and nature in her curriculum.  We completed three different lessons, each distinctly different from the last, but with the similarity that they were not the type of lesson you usually see in a typical middle school classroom.  We explored and dug through a compost pile/worm colony, honed our observation skills, and experimented with our sensory skills.  All of these lessons were unified in the idea that they taught us about some element of the natural world while also getting us to be active participants in our learning.  I found that these lessons jibe quite well with my own teaching philosophy which stresses the importance of placing the center of a lesson on the students involved in the learning.  I’ve always been someone who benefits from actually doing the thing they are being taught so on a personal level I appreciated these activities since they are similar to how I want to conduct my future class.

As a future English teacher I think there are many ways nature and experiential learning can be incorporated into my curriculum.  The relationship between literature and nature is as old as oral language itself and can be found present in virtually almost every literary work.  The reason for this is quite simple: nature is everywhere (even in cities) and to write a novel without it would be a challenge indeed.  But beyond just inclusion in stories, nature has had a meaningful impact on many a great author and it seems unlikely that that aspect of literature will change any time in the near future.  In the classroom I think students  can benefit greatly from this connection with nature as it can lend a spark to their creative process.  When writing, I have found that I benefit greatly from a change of scenery and often I find that being in a place of natural beauty helps even better.  Similarly, I think if I were to take my classes outdoors in certain circumstances to help stimulate their writing, nature would certainly help them with the creative process.  Similarly, I think writing is something that has to be taught with an experiential approach because simply put, there is no other way to do it.  However, the experiences I choose to supply my students with can vary greatly and to that extent I think the most positive experiences for them would be writing workshops. Getting feedback on your writing, especially when it is in rough draft form, is incredibly helpful and not only helps the writer being assessed, but the reader too.  Additionally, by supplying my students with positive writing experiences, such as writing workshops, it is my hope  they will come to enjoy the writing process while also getting better at it.

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