Putting the 'Teeth' into Experiential Learning at CAA

Most schools pride themselves on classroom learning and on their great faculty and student body. Columbia Adventist Academy is no different. However, the education isn't always confined to the classroom. Significant learning opportunities have happened outside the classroom setting this year. Some of the nontraditional learning experiences include: physics class rocket launching; varsity golf sending freshman Jaci Allison to the state tournament; Washington State history field trip to Olympia and Seattle; English IV class experiencing the play The Chosen, based on Chaim Potok's novel, then returning and writing play reviews; and the annual biology field trip to the Walla Walla University Marine Station at Rosario Beach, Wash., to observe intertidal organisms and collect data for state and federal government agencies. Each of these activities took students out of the familiar classroom environment and provided opportunities for experiential learning.

Community outreach opportunities have included mission trips to Kentucky, in conjunction with the Meadow Glade (Wash.) Church, and to an orphanage in Mexico, in partnership with International Children's Care.

One student in particular has taken her learning experience outside the classroom to a new level. In chemistry class, students develop their own independent research projects to match their personal interests with science. Marissa Harris, a junior, says, "I've always enjoyed the medical aspect and decided that doing an experiment with teeth would not only be educational but enjoyable because of my interest." With the help of a family friend, Steve Hokett, a local periodontist, Harris obtained extracted teeth and made a connection with Harry Davis, Oregon Health and Science University researcher. Harris then spent time preparing the teeth to begin her research on "The Effects of Acidity on the Microhardness of Dental Enamel."

However, she says that when Davis looked at the teeth, he stated bluntly that they weren't "prepared properly" and in order to obtain accurate, useful data, Harris would need to begin all over again. Many hours later "what seemed to be the biggest nightmare became one of the greatest, invaluable experiences of my life," Harris says. "Through the experience, I became more educated about how research is conducted and I really got a feel for what being a researcher is like. The longer I continued my research, the more excited and willing Davis became to help me succeed, suggesting I enter my research in a science fair." As a result of her research, Harris has received awards from both CAA and the American Chemical Society.

CAA teachers offer opportunities both inside and out of the classroom, but students agree nontraditional methods often provide the most enjoyable and memorable learning of the entire academic year.

July 01, 2010 / Oregon Conference