It isn’t always easy for students to continuously learn abstract concepts without being able to see concrete examples. Since students don’t understand their use “in real life,” the concepts being taught lose their meaning. Here is how to add real-life experiences to your courses to help your students learn.


Experience as a tool for reflection

The older students get, the faster they understand abstract concepts. At Cegep and university, the real-life or illustrative approach isn’t as important. However, in elementary and secondary school, students need to use their senses, to experience, to see, to touch in order to care about and appropriate certain concepts.

Many concepts can be represented and experienced in the real world. Students can thus make sense of and understand the utility of the concepts being explained. We are not talking about long mathematical equations here, but concepts from biology, history, the environment, physical sciences and other subjects that are interesting, and can benefit from being illustrated by direct experience.   

Experimentation is learning by analyzing things in real life, asking questions, formulating hypotheses, comparing results and then drawing conclusions. This approach, which is in large part based on observation and manipulation, develops a discipline and a sense of method in students.


Experiential learning

Experiential learning is a method developed by the educational theorist David Kolb in the 70s, which proposes using activities and workshops that allow youngsters to experience abstract concepts directly.  

For your students, learning notions by experiencing them gives them the opportunity to feel involved, empowered and proactive. At the elementary school level, students can learn about:

  • weights and measures by weighing objects on a scale;
  • fractions by cutting up leaves;
  • liquid measures by using a measuring cup;
  • subtraction by using small objects;
  • orders of magnitude through observation with a microscope or a magnifying glass.

With immersive experiential workshops, the following can also be demonstrated:  

  • historic or scientific facts by visiting a museum or the Cosmodôme;
  • the concept of geographical relief by going on a field trip near a mountain;
  • the animal world by visiting an insectarium, aquarium or animal shelter;
  • agriculture by visiting a farm;
  • plant life by bringing students into a forest;

Project-based or research-based experiential learning activities are most effective when done in small groups (just as, for example, during laboratory tests in chemistry or biology class). Experiments in groups of 2 to 8 people are therefore recommended to encourage exchange and everyone’s progress.

As well, the experience must be meaningful to students and preferably provide information that goes beyond the experiment itself.  

The different phases of experiential learning

Experiential workshops are conducted in 4 phases:

  • experimentation;
  • reflective observation;
  • abstract conceptualisation;
  • the application of new ideas.

Students are involved and empowered in the learning process.  Together they learn the procedures, the required skills, the facts to consider and concepts to apply. They also must be allowed a certain amount of autonomy and initiative during the experiment, while respecting the instructions.


The classroom garden as an experiential learning activity

Right off, the Vireo hydroponic garden is an educational project that enables students to learn, in small groups, how to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit-bearing plants. But it is much more than that! This activity is definitely hands on (involving touch, small, sight and even taste), and allows students to learn skills related to school subjects.

For example, the teacher can demonstrate:

  • mathematical concepts by asking students to adjust the nutritive solutions to suit the plants’ needs;
  • biological concepts by observing the growth of the vegetables, herbs and fruit-bearing plants;
  • French and environmental concepts by asking students to write a text in which they plan the development of a permaculture ecosystem;
  • Historical concepts by discussing the “invention” of agriculture, which led to sedentism;

With the digital platform (mobile app) that is included with the classroom hydroponic garden, students have access to a variety of stimulating educational content. They’ll be busy all year!

The classroom garden includes:

  • All the material to start and maintain the garden;  
  • The seeds and substrates for the year;  
  • Access to the digital platform with various educational workshops (intuitive features make it easy to use);
  • Support to ensure the success of your project.

The Vireo hydroponic garden is simple to install and maintain. No dirt is involved, so it always stays clean!


Contact us for more information

If you have questions or wish to learn more about this educational project that provides real-life learning experiences, we invite you to visit our website and try out our educational digital platform at no cost, in order to see all the available educational content.