Experiential Learning

Community Partners Bring New Learning Opportunities to Jones Paideia Elementary
Posted on 11/19/2021
Jones students in class
At Jones Paideia Elementary School, science educators come in to do experiments with students. A neighborhood resident teaches yoga to the youngsters. The YMCA provides field trips to its downtown pool for swimming lessons, and the Nashville Symphony has brought in a musical instrument “petting zoo.” yoga teacher with students

These and other community partners allow Jones Paideia to teach more and do more than it could on its own, pointing students toward new opportunities and interests to explore.

“It helps us do things that are outside the curriculum but that kids really need,” Principal Myra Taylor said. “It’s creating opportunities that are fun, educational, and engaging.”

While all of this experiential learning is going on a couple of days each month, the school’s teachers and instructional coaches have two uninterrupted hours to meet in teams so they can plan and practice upcoming lessons. Teachers from adjacent grades, such as kindergarten and first grade, can talk about their observations of students’ strengths as well as their weaknesses and tailor their teaching accordingly.

“Some of them in first grade may be still struggling with things that we’re struggling with in kindergarten, which can help us see where we might need to pull them into small groups,” kindergarten teacher Dearris Boyd said. “It’s a benefit for everyone.” students doing science with teacher in class

Taylor said teachers need the time to examine what’s working so they can make more powerful connections with students.

“As much as we can build professional development in during the school day, we try to,” she said.

The principal said each of the school’s approximately 310 students got to pick their activities for the experiential learning days. The activities are often full of movement and excited chatter as students and community members engage in fun projects together.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Fenn Trehy of Mr. Bond’s Science Guys, a local company that brings hundreds of experiments to schools and parties, gave a group of first-graders a quick lesson on the building process: ask, plan, prototype, build, test, and improve. Then Trehy, an MNPS graduate himself, dumped out boxes of play straws and connectors and showed the students how they could create three-dimensional cubes, which led to a discussion of the difference between 2-D and 3-D objects.

“How are you going to build a mansion?” one student asked when another announced what she was planning to make.

“I’ll figure it out,” came the reply.

That summed up the can-do spirit Taylor said she so often sees from Jones Paideia’s students.

“The kids are capable, they’re able, they want to,” she said. “We just have to find novel ways to meet those needs.”

The experiential learning program also has brought in YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee’s AMEND Together, which works with men and boys to end the culture of violence against women and girls. Other community partners have taught chess, gardening, and tennis.

Taylor said the symphony brought some instruments that students had never seen before, and one child “fell in love with the clarinet.”

“It’s a beautiful coming together of the community and the school,” Taylor said. “It’s so meaningful to see folks knocking on the door to say, ‘How can we help?’ The kids get so excited.”
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