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Experiential Education

Headwaters Academy has a long tradition of including hands-on experiences as a way to facilitate student learning from theory to practice. Experiential education has value far beyond building social skills, cross-curricular connections, and outdoor expertise. Experiential education can also foster powerful academic learning and help students achieve intellectual goals. 


Experiential education is a teaching philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities.

Many disciplines and settings utilize experiential education methodologies: outdoor and adventure education, non-formal education, place-based education, project-based learning, global education, environmental education, student-centered education, informal education, active learning, service learning, cooperative learning and expeditionary learning.

Experiential learning goals include:

Having students engage in a deeper understanding of subject matter than is possible through classroom study alone

Allowing students to develop the capacity for critical thinking and application of knowledge in complex and ambiguous situations

Creating the foundation to engage in lifelong learning

Live and travel in the outdoors 

Connect with natural places 

Demonstrate good expedition behavior—take initiative, balance group and personal goals, and remain respectful and inclusive of their team members 

Function under difficult circumstances

Make informed and thoughtful decisions

Communicate effectively

At the end of each study, our teachers use structured reflection to help students link experience with theory and deepen their understanding and ability to use what they know.

6th Grade: Foundation and Substance

Our school is committed to helping 6th graders develop their core and foundational skills. We strive to help our 6th graders with organization, provide them with the tools to act with confidence and competence, help them learn to care for themselves and others, and allow them the opportunity to understand their strengths, habits, and areas for growth. 

7th Grade: Community and Collaboration

Our school applies the foundational skills from 6th grade and ensures the 7th grade culture works collaboratively to create a supportive learning culture with high expectations. The 7th grade actively focuses on respect and collaborating with others on teams and in communities; providing them the opportunities to develop and demonstrate competence; allowing them to develop a tolerance for adversity and uncertainty; fostering environments where they can demonstrate self-awareness, and allowing them to display initiative by setting and achieving goals.

8th Grade: Leadership and Awareness

Our school supports our 8th graders by having them assume leadership roles, and serve a team in a variety of roles: self-leader, peer leader, designated leader, and active follower. Students also have a field study opportunity that provides a positive, transformational experience that is inspiring and empowers students to act.

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