Today it seems as though our education system is lacking in providing students with consistent real-world learning experiences, despite often having the ability to do so. Students are stuck in this repetitive cycle of cramming for tests, taking the tests and then forgetting the material. I believe that this cycle is a result of never using the material again, or using it in a form that isn’t applicable outside of school.
There have been a few instances in my high school career that have made a lasting impact on me in terms of hands-on learning and acquiring skills that can benefit me in the future. For instance, in my junior year, I was able to conduct a research project in dual enrollment United States history that was completely individual and student-led. Each student was given the same task of tracing their house back to the pre-Civil War era and write a historical narrative based on their research. There was only one requirement: a visit to the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg. The project had no other requirements and no precise rubric to follow. The process of gathering research and analyzing it without the help of secondary sources is what made this project so meaningful.
This research project was the most time consuming assignment I have done in my high school career so far. Despite its difficulty, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have been able to partake in such an assignment. I took away more than just a presentation grade. I learned how to problem solve when congruity errors in my research emerged, how to connect sources to better construct a clear historical narrative and most importantly I discovered how I learn best.
Although I am lucky to have had this experience with hands-on learning, many students are not granted with the same opportunity. The availability of this type of learning is based on factors such as grade level, class curriculum, and what school you attend. At Freedom High School, we have a decent amount of opportunities to partake in this style of education, but I would argue that we do not have nearly enough of them for all grades and classes. I firmly believe that the key to truly learning and retaining information is through applicable hands-on projects and meaningful discussions.