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Experiential Learning at the Forefront at Valley Heights Secondary School

A male student holds on to a frog in a marsh setting

Caption: Grade 9 student Memphis made an amphibian friend during an experiential learning field trip this year

There’s a famous quote that staff and students at Valley Heights Secondary School seem to have taken to heart this year: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”

Valley Heights has embraced experiential learning opportunities, and are reaping the benefits of this outside-the-classroom kind of learning. Experiential learning gives students a chance to explore beyond the walls of the school as they enter workplaces and job sites and gain insights into possible career paths. It offers opportunities to develop hands-on, transferable skills as they apply what they’ve learned in class and test solutions in the real world.

“Experiential learning is at the forefront of our educational programming because this is how students make the connections between what they are learning in the classroom, and how it will benefit them in work and in life,” said James Merrick, vice-principal at Valley Heights. “We are so proud of the efforts of our staff to incorporate experiential learning into their instruction and to provide opportunities for our students.”

This year, experiential learning has taken the form of field trips to venues such as the Stratford Festival, workshops hosted by the likes of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, workplace tours and co-operative education opportunities with local trades-based businesses, and even a new certification available in forklift operations, learning to use – and being tested with – a forklift donated by Tigercat Industries. It’s also taken the form of dual-credit courses in manufacturing, construction, and hospitality, and leadership trips organized in partnership with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

Valley Heights’ prioritization of these types of opportunities is reflected in Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan, which promotes Community, formally integrating and celebrating the partner organizations that enhance learning experiences. It also highlights Achievement, measuring and reflecting on outcomes, and an understanding of effective learning strategies.

“We’re fortunate to be able to provide such a wide variety of experiences, both in and out of our local community, so that students are able to participate in authentic learning activities that help them develop their own sense of where they see themselves in the future,” said Alison High, principal at Valley Heights. “We’re also incredibly fortunate to have the expertise of Mrs. Roberts, Grand Erie itinerant teacher for experiential learning, for her efforts in supporting our adventures!”

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