How can experiential learning help teachers in the current Covid-19 crisis?

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Teaching is a tough job right now and it’s a daily struggle to deliver effective learning.

In September, our schools finally re-opened after Lockdown #1 and pupils found themselves restricted to interaction within a specific ‘class bubble’. Now just a few months on the beginning of 2021 has brought Lockdown #3 and bubbles are now made up of key-worker and SEN children, who often work in mixed age groups.

Whilst restricting pupil flows around the school is necessary to help reduce transmission, but it means pupils are unable to use the key resources around school. These restrictions and changes can cause tension and anxiety and finding ways to keep pupils focused on their learning rather can be difficult.

If you’re struggling with these challenges you are not alone, and there are solutions:

Struggling to maintain a balance when teaching pupils in school as well as those online?

Teachers now have the almost impossible task of juggling teaching in the classroom and online. In this instance experiential learning could help by giving the teacher some breathing space and time to respond to queries/questions from the pupils based at home. By setting the children in school a task with minimal facilitation requirements it can enable the teacher to split attention between in-school and remote learners.

Losing staff at short notice?

Losing just one or two members of staff to illness or self-isolation can have a detrimental effect on a school, it increases everyone’s workload and causes added upheaval and change for pupils.

Developing a session with specific experiential learning activities, such as those that work on creating bonds and adapting to change can help.

Try ‘Shapes’ from MTa PASS. The group is asked to make specific shapes. Students need to think ahead, be flexible and build on each other’s ideas.

OR the Marshmallow Challenge is an old favourite. But for a variety of reasons we’re not huge fans! Click here for how and why!

Are your students suffering from cabin fever?  As a parent of two primary school aged children I’ve seen the underlying tensions and frustrations that build within class bubbles. This is inevitable and only natural when restrictions dictate with whom you can interact – sitting by the same person for 6 hours each day can be tough even if you have a good relationship!

Experiential learning encourages a different way of learning that is hands on, physical and social. It gets students up from their chairs which is instantly more stimulating. Sessions can be run in the classroom or outside (if the weather is on your side) and a bubble can be split down into ‘sub’ bubbles/teams.

These activities provide an alternative way to get children thinking, in a fun thought provoking way and results in high levels of engagement.

Using the resources within school why not get the pupils outside and set a challenge, for example build a bridge to hold specific weights and then review the planning, execution and team skills.   If you want to take your bridge building to the next level, then the components in MTa PASS are infinitely flexible.

Are student anxieties affecting the class?  Some children may be finding changes tough not only at school but in their day to day lives as restrictions take their toll. Others are happy just ‘to get on with it’ and are pretty laid back about the situation.

There’s no doubt that teachers are well equipped to work this out for themselves, but times like these are nothing like we have ever experienced before. Experiential learning can be a great way for teachers to delve a little deeper into pupil behaviours and discover what may be bubbling under the surface. By carefully selecting activities that can highlight any anxieties and underlying tensions, a teacher can gain valuable insight enabling more focused classroom prep and the foresight to ‘nip situations in the bud’.

Discover emotions by setting a personal challenge in class, and this can be as simple as ‘design a paper aeroplane’. In the lesson, students are asked to create a paper aeroplane following a set of rules to see how far it will fly. As you brief the rules, students begin to make predictions, then as they wait to fly their design, a range of emotions build: fear, hope, exciting and apprehension as they wonder how their plane will fly with everyone watching. As they see their planes perform  differently emotions are likely to evolve: surprise, disappointment, sadness and joy. Use this opportunity to delve a little further into their reactions.

A useful tool here is the learning review for the activity ‘Personal Success ’ from MTa PASS. It asks students to write down three words or short phrases that describe how they personally felt during the activity. Encouraging constructive discussion about what lies behind each person’s words. If you wold like a free copy of the learning review then please get in touch by emailing info@mtalearning.com

Need to boost morale? Celebrate success! – Experiential learning can provide a real morale boost.

Whilst reflection on a task, especially if it didn’t go so well, is sometimes painful, there is always the moment of realisation that what have you learnt is way more valuable – and do you know what, there is no right or wrong answer! And teams can take an immense amount of satisfaction from seemingly simple tasks, such as building the tallest tower with the least amount of materials or brainstorming ideas in a bid to develop communication skills.

Setting challenges that nurture leadership in those individuals that would normally shy away from a leadership role or for those that just need a bit of a ‘boost’ can be an impactful way to instil confidence and a channel to hand-out some much needed praise.

Why not ask the class to make suggestions for a game/activity, it’s incredibly empowering, and provides much needed sense of control in a world where young people are at the mercy of events. Ask those that are taking part for input and you may be surprised at the creativity, thought and attention to detail that results.

‘Catapult’ from MTa STEM is one of our favourite activities to give an injection of morale. It’s a multi-phase activity where teams must design, build and operate a rubber band powered catapult. The activity begins with teams working to interpret an incomplete design and then build their catapult. It seeks to engage the whole class in a fun and thought-provoking way. And as a ‘mega project’ it provides the opportunity for lots of discussion, reflection, evaluation and praise.

So, to sum things up, things are pretty challenging at the moment but there is always a way to try to overcome those challenges! The ‘new normal’ is now very much part of our every-day life, we just need to work with it rather than against it, in turn creating a positive learning environment. At MTa Learning we believe that experiential learning will always be a constant and a huge part of our learning and development albeit in a crisis or not.

Developing an experiential learning programme within school is as easy as making a paper aeroplane or planting some seeds and we hope that some of our activity suggestions will help. But if your school is looking for experiential learning that is ready to go, tried, tested and guaranteed, then click on the links below to take a look at a couple of our kits which are ideal for any classroom.

MTa PASS

MTa STEM

It would be great to see what’s going on in your classroom, so please feel free to send us any hints/tips on the experiential learning that your students found particularly engaging – we are always learning here too!

Finally, a big thank you from us here at MTa, you are all doing a great job.