Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 18, 2022

Photo by: Covington Classical Academy

Fifth Day: The Importance of Experiential Learning

What is experiential learning? It is the application of learning through hands-on activities and inquiry-based learning.

Why is experiential learning important? Students of all ages learn material better and remember it longer when they are actively engaged and not just reading or hearing about a topic. Decades of experiential learning has shown us that, “When education is said to be experiential, it means that it is structured in a way that allows the learner to explore the phenomenon under study – to form a direct relationship with the subject matter – rather than merely reading about the phenomenon or encountering it indirectly. Experiential learning, then, requires that the learner play an active role in the experience and that the experience is followed by reflection as a method for processing, understanding, and making sense of it.”  – Experiential Education

Experiential learning uses real-life activities to transfer knowledge from the classroom and the textbook to students. For example, students can build a bridge out of Popsicle sticks and test how much weight it can sustain, rather than just reading about bridge design. They can study Greek vases by looking at slide after slide, or they can sculpt and paint one themselves. Students can study marine biology by watching videos or reading a text, but going to the Newport Aquarium allows them to explore and even touch. Experiential learning is not just about “field trips,” although that can be an important part of the learning. More and more schools are cutting back on field trips, due to logistics, liability and costs. Or, field trips are fun activities used as rewards, with no real learning taking place.

One local school which does experiential learning well is Covington Classical Academy. Teachers there see hands-on learning as so valuable that they have structured it into the curriculum as part of an innovative program they call Fifth Day. Once a week, students leave the traditional classroom setting and are exposed to broader topics, cementing the belief that learning is not isolated to a high school classroom, and encouraging the development of a love for lifelong learning at an early age.

Fifth Day allows Covington Classical Academy to turn the greater Cincinnati area and all it has to offer into a larger classroom. Through Fifth Day activities, CCA students have learned some new skills such as skiing and bowling, CPR and first aid. They have contributed to the community by volunteering at places like Be Concerned and Master Provisions. They have honed their observation skills and appreciation for arts at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Theater. They have developed their critical thinking and problem- solving skills through STEM activities such as DNA Forensics testing and marble run building.

Learning is assessed by the faculty members and others sharing their expertise. Examples of assessments could be skill demonstration, reflective or informative writing, or traditional assessments (i.e. quizzes).

Experiential learning allows students to study real-life situations, to problem solve alone or in groups, to practice new skills, to explore their interests.

To learn more about how Covington Classical Academy has incorporated experiential learning directly into its curriculum, or to schedule a tour of the school, visit our website at

About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of three. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.