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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNINGTeens Grows Greens is grounded in experiential learning (EL), which is, at its most basic, learning from experience or learning by doing. According to Michelle Schwartz's "Best Practices in Experiential Learning," EL "first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking." (a) According to the University of Texas at Austin Faculty Innovation Center, EL is "any learning that supports students in applying their knowledge and conceptual understanding to real-world problems or situations." (b) According to the Association of Experiential Education, EL 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." (c) EL is different from traditional learning in that it is neither "reductive" (d) nor a "compartmentalized presentation of abstract concepts" (e), but rather immersive (f) interdisciplinary (g), constructivist (h), non-linear (i), and transformative (j). The emphasis is on TRANSFORMATIVE, because at Teens Grow Greens, Teens learn, grow, and go! The Teens Grow Greens internship aligns with these EL best practices through hands-on, immersive experiences: in the classroom, garden, and kitchen; in the community, where they mentor neighborhood Kids; at farmers markets, where they sell what they have grown; in public, where they market their own products. Teens bring a growth mindset to achieving the objectives of the 6 Vines of Roots of Success, Healthy Living, Leadership, Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, and Professioalism, following the three main principles of Responsibility, Respect, and Resilience. (a) Schwartz, Michelle. "Best Practices in Experiential Learning." Ryerson University Teaching & Learning Office. 2012. www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/ExperientialLearningReport.pdf. (b) University of Texas at Austin Faculty Innovation Center. (c) www.aee.org/what-is-ee (d) Marshall, Stephanie Pace. The Power to Transform: Leadership That Brings Learning & Schooling to Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006. (e) Schwartz, Michelle. "Best Practices in Experiential Learning." Ryerson University Teaching & Learning Office. 2012. www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/ExperientialLearningReport.pdf. (f) Ibid. (g) Ibid. (h) Ibid. (i) Ibid. (j) Wurdinger, S.D. Using Experiential Learning in the Classroom. Lanham: Scarecrow Education, 2005: 69. Qtd. in Schwartz, Michelle. "Best Practices in Experiential Learning." Ryerson University Teaching & Learning Office. 2012. www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/ExperientialLearningReport.pdf.
MEASURING SUCCESSThe National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE), the standard bearer when it comes to EL, has “Eight Principles of Good Practice for All Experiential Learning Activities“ (a). The last three principles define best practice when it comes to measuring success: Monitoring and Continuous Improvement: Any learning activity will be dynamic and changing, and the parties involved all bear responsibility for ensuring that the experience, as it is in process, continues to provide the richest learning possible, while affirming the learner. It is important that there be a feedback loop related to learning intentions and quality objectives. While reflection provides input for new hypotheses and knowledge based in documenting experiences, other strategies for observing progress against intentions and objectives should also be in place. Assessment and Evaluation: Outcomes and processes should be systematically documented with regard to initial intentions and quality outcomes. Assessment is a means to develop and refine the specific learning goals and quality objectives identified during the planning stages of the experience, while evaluation provides comprehensive data about the experiential process as a whole and whether it has met the intentions which suggested it. Acknowledgment: Recognition of learning and impact occur throughout the experience by way of the reflective and monitoring processes and through reporting, documentation and sharing of accomplishments. All parties to the experience should be included in the recognition of progress and accomplishment. Culminating documentation and celebration of learning and impact help provide closure and sustainability to the experience. The Teens Grow Greens internship aligns with these NSEE guidelines through its comprehensive and diverse feedback and documentation loop, which includes: Pre- and post-program surveys for both interns and their parents/guardians On-going peer and staff assessments: Daily check-ins to build and sustain relationships Monthly Growth Talks Performance Reviews (formal, twice during internship) Pre- and post-theme surveys Project-based assessments Written and oral reflection Virtual badges awarded for completion of each Vine, as well as for programming accomplishments (like financial literacy training or culinary training) and periodic acknolwledgments (like Teen of the Month) Final portfolio with visual and written evidence that the objectives of the 6 Vines have been achieved and growth has been demonstrated regarding the three main principles Post-graduation support (a) The National Society for Experiential Education. “Eight Principles of Good Practice for All Experiential Learning.” 2011. http://www.nsee.org/8-principles.
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