Northeastern University launches initiative to bring experiential learning to K-12 classrooms

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Building upon its global leadership in experiential learning in higher education, Northeastern University is launching a first-of-its-kind initiative to introduce this successful model to the K-12 education system. Beginning July 17, Northeastern will convene K-12 educators from across North America to work alongside Northeastern faculty in a yearlong innovation incubator for experiential education—a learning model based on the intentional integration of life experience and academic instruction.

The new program will bring together 74 educators from 31 U.S. and Canadian K-12 schools that already place an emphasis on experiential learning. These educators represent a mix of private and public schools with diverse student bodies, and participants range from teachers and guidance counselors to principals and superintendents.

“Experiential education is a powerful and proven model of learning,” said President Joseph E. Aoun. “We know that the integration of classroom instruction with real-world experience enhances student outcomes and prepares students for success. These experiential opportunities should not be limited to college-level students, but rather, should be expanded to learners at all levels. That is why this partnership with our colleagues at K-12 systems across North America can be transformational.”

The program will kick off with a four-day summer institute on Northeastern’s Boston campus, where participants will develop strategies to integrate experiential learning programs into their own curricula. The group will also study the cognitive science behind the success of experiential learning and take part in a hackathon to design engaging and valuable learning experiences.

In a recent national survey conducted by Northeastern, 97 percent of business leaders say that students who combine study with experiential learning will have more successful careers. In addition, more than half of these business leaders believe the U.S. education system lags behind both developed and emerging countries in preparing students for the workforce.

“Northeastern University’s approach to experiential learning continues to be a model for higher education institutions around the world,” said U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. “I’m excited to see the university partner with educators from across the country, including many from Massachusetts, to bring this expertise to K-12 classrooms and better prepare students for the 21st century educational system and global economy.”

After completing the summer institute, the educators will return to their schools across North America to refine their plans under the guidance of Northeastern faculty and mentors. The group will then begin to integrate their experiential learning models into their classrooms, schools and school systems this winter and evaluate the success of their plans with their mentors in preparation for a final presentation in the spring.

The educators will implement a variety of projects, including using experiential learning techniques to design and pursue solutions to real-world engineering problems; build service-learning and leadership through local and international community service; and use experiential learning to involve students in local politics in a meaningful and sustained way.

Educators who complete the program will earn eight continuing education credits toward a master’s or doctoral degree through Northeastern’s Graduate School of Education or other higher education institutions prepared to accept this graduate credit for transfer. Members of the inaugural cohort will also serve as mentors to future participants in the program.

The goal of the program, which is expected to expand in future years, is to build a global network of experiential educators who will transform K-12 education.

A full list of participating schools and districts:

  • Barrington, RI Public Schools
  • Highline School District, WA
  • Crescent School, Toronto, Canada
  • Natick, MA Public Schools
  • Tesla STEM High School, WA
  • York School, Toronto
  • New Mission High School, MA
  • Northwest School, WA
  • Royal St George’s College, Toronto, Canada
  • EMK Academy for Health Careers, MA
  • St. Michael’s University School, Victoria, Canada
  • St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn, Oakville, Canada
  • Cathedral High School, MA
  • Catlin Gable School, OR
  • Selwyn House School, Montreal, Canada
  • Times2 STEM Academy, RI
  • Providence Day School, NC
  • The College Preparatory School, CA
  • Francis Parker School, CA
  • Northside College Prep High School, IL
  • Charlotte Latin School, NC
  • The School for Entrepreneurship and Technology, CA
  • Walter Payton College Prep High School, IL
  • Olympic Community of Schools, NC
  • Cathedral Catholic High School, CA
  • La Jolla Country Day School, CA
  • Francis Parker School, CA
  • IowaBig, IA
  • Staten Island Technical High School, NY
  • Center for Advanced Professional Studies/Blue Valley School District, KS
  • Chicago, IL Public Schools
  • Independent Schools Experiential Education Network, NM
  • New Mission High School, MA
  • School for Entrepreneurship and Technology, CA
  • Tyee High School, WA