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Upper School Blog


Experiential Learning and Complex Challenges

April 18, 2023
By Meredith Williams, Upper School Head

The SA Upper School values purposeful preparation for life after graduation. This blog is the fourth in a series highlighting the ways in which the SA Upper School’s design successfully launches students into their post-graduation plans.

SA Upper School’s downtown location allows students to make the community their classroom. In doing so, experiential instruction takes on a new depth as students solve real-world challenges.  

Not only does this model equip students with the competencies outlined in our graduate profile, but it mimics the direction of the learning in many colleges and universities.  

Explore the world to prepare for success in it

High Point University prides itself on connecting at least a quarter of each course's content to experiential applications. HPU explains the thinking behind this strategic design:

“Because professors want their students to stretch themselves, work in the community and find out firsthand what “real” means. Students then discover for themselves that experience brings real-world context to classroom content.”

SA Upper School seeks to achieve the same goals through partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, as well as art and entertainment organizations. Walking just outside the school doors in Downtown Salisbury, our students are immersed in community connections that help them determine how their passions connect to community needs.  

Think and Do

When students connect with the community, their interest and passion for its needs and challenges increases. NC State University explains their method for connecting students to their passions through community challenges:

“At NC State University, we pair passion with purposeful action. And our students aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty tackling the major challenges that face our world.  That’s why our motto is “Think and Do.” Here, you’ll go beyond the classroom to gain real experience — and you’ll graduate ready to take on whatever comes next.

SA Upper School core content classes will also dive deeply into real-world problem solving through our community connections. For example, 10th graders explore the role of legislation, scientific data, and community nonprofits in addressing concerns around storm water run-off. Freshman learners will consider the making of heroes and the stories that surround them not just in literature but in American history and our current community. By telling the story of unsung heroes in our community, our freshman learners will view the world from multiple perspectives and help our community do the same.  

Explore these experiential models in other colleges and universities:

Clemson University - Experiential learning is how lessons come to life for Clemson students. 
Davidson - Community-based learning courses focus on meeting a community-defined need by working alongside community members, site visits to organizations and exhibits, and guest speakers.
University of Tennessee - Learn through direct experience and intense reflection to increase your knowledge, acquire lifelong learning and problem-solving skills, and illuminate values.
Oberlin College - Their Center for Engaged Liberal Arts connects the classroom to the world

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