Learning by Doing Makes Things Memorable, Summit Proves

Jan. 24, 2018 — On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Tam “Jimmy” Tran ’18 tried his hand at calligraphy, using a bamboo brush to create intricate Chinese characters in bold black ink. Upstairs in Blake Student Center, a dozen ninth-graders discussed how to raise interest in adoption. Down the hall, teams raced the clock to build towers from dry spaghetti, marshmallows, and tape. Others talked about their study-abroad trip to Spain and Morocco. Outside, students went ice skating and trail-biking.

Trying hands-on activities was the point of NMH’s first Learning Through Action Summit, Angela Yang-Handy told the 100+ participants. “We wanted to provide opportunities for you to experience our range of experiential programs,” “We hope that you’ll explore social entrepreneurship, sustainability education, service to others, outdoor activities, workjob, study abroad, and the NMH farm.” Her office, the Center for Learning Through Action, organized the summit’s 20 sessions.

Matti Key ’21 started with the farm’s “working with horses and oxen” session. Although she rides horses, oxen were new to her. “We learned how to make them move and respond to our comments,” she said. “It was cool to see how they are used to maintain the environment here and to produce food for our dining hall.”

The afternoon started with an interpretive walk in the woods for Ines Knirsch ’21. Then she joined a session on campus energy use using the phone app Kahoot. Students amassed points by using their phones to answer questions such as “Where does NMH get its electricity? and “How much is the school’s heating budget?” A second later, the app displayed a chart showing who got the correct response first. “Learning this way is more engaging and makes new ideas stick with you better,” said Knirsch.

Jayden Okorougo ’21 joined Shampoo Shuttle, filling small plastic bottles for delivery to Salvation Army clients. He also tried calligraphy, and went skating on Shadow Lake. Mona Zhang ’19 helped facilitate the tower-building game, an exercise she learned in NMH’s Social Entrepreneurship course. The goal, she said, was not just to build a tall tower quickly (one team managed a 29-inch structure) but also to have students put aside the goal of perfection. “Just try and test, try and test,” she advised. 

At afternoon’s end, students were invited to reflect on their experiences by leaving Post-it notes about “A leap I took” (leading a workshop, teaching origami), “A moment I loved” (walking oxen, Korean cooking), and “A thing I learned” (‘how to kinda ice skate,’ how to sew, how to write in Mandarin).

Although not all students were previously aware of the Center for Learning Through Action, the temporary tattoos with the summit logo, and the afternoon’s explorations, changed that. As Key put it, learning by doing “is more visual and involves your body more. And those things help what you learn stick in your brain.”