Experiential Learning By Providing Relevant STEM Experiences to Students

At the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, experiential learning is a big part of the curriculum. Experiential learning is based on giving students relevant experiences that help them understand and learn new concepts. It also requires we provide time for thoughtful reflection after these experiences. Typical learning experiences we do on a weekly basis are to use the flight simulators to experience what an aircraft actually does in flight, after we have studied a topic about flight in the classroom. Bringing in guest speakers who share their experiences in college STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs or in STEM careers is another form of experiential learning. Field trips, such as the one we are doing to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum this Thursday, are great experiential learning opportunities. The STEM competitions we do provides invaluable experiences. In all these cases, we reflect on what we learn, usually with a class discussion at a minimum, and often with a written reflection.

This past week, we had a couple instances of experiential learning. First, the eighth graders taught the seventh graders how to operate the tools and use the supplies in the makerspace safely and efficiently. This was a good review for the eighth graders, and it was a very relevant experience for the seventh graders since they are now using the makerspace to do a Rube Goldberg project demonstrating a sequence of simple machines. Another experience a few academy students had this weekend was to fly with the Meriden chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association in their Young Eagles Day. This was not a school sponsored event, but I had publicized it to the students a few weeks ago, and I went out to the Meriden Markham Airport where it was held this Saturday to watch them fly. Today, these students shared their experience flying in a real, small airplane with the rest of the class. Such experiences can often be life-changing for a young person.

Here are photos of the eighth graders teaching the seventh graders in the makerspace:


Here are photos from the Young Eagles Day:


Author: Bryan Holmes, Physics & Math Teacher, STEM Competition Mentor

Starting at Thomaston High School in Thomaston, Connecticut, in fall of 2018.

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