Monday, 4 March 2013

The Importance of Learning Outside of the Classroom

Last week, we discussed innovation in the classroom and the importance of influential mentors to help shape our ideas, encourage us to dream big and the courage to take risks and try again. This week Alicia Bedard provides some great insights from field with how our students can engage in a rich learning experience outside the classroom.
Guest Blog: Alicia Bedard

Drab beige walls, grey commercial grade flooring, the hum of incandescent lights fill your ears while sunlight from a small window filters into the corner of the room. Where are you? If you guessed a classroom – you’re right! Other acceptable answers include a retirement home, on a bus and an airport waiting area, none of which are particularly engaging or inspiring. As a child of the late 80’s, this is how I remember my learning environment.

Some of my fondest memories from my formative education are from experimental learning outside of the classroom – competing on a sports team, performing in the choir, volunteering at a homeless shelter and going on field trips. All of these activities provide real-life experience and create framework for lifelong learning (both inside and outside of the traditional classroom).

What’s changed?
Major technological innovations have been introduced to many classrooms over the last 10-15 years. Most students have access to computers, tablets, mobile devices, flat screen televisions and smart boards. The way in which a student accesses learning has changed drastically, ultimately enhancing the learning experience. However students are still stuck in the same room. (probably with the same paint)

The Importance of learning outside of the classroom
I decided that I was going to volunteer my time to ensure that youth within our community are given every opportunity to thrive. I’m not alone in this; there are hundreds of local professionals who volunteer their time to make learning outside of the classroom a reality - all because they believe in the benefits of this experience.

Ideas worth spreading
In addition to volunteering with Junior Achievement Waterloo Region, I’ve taken on a lead role with TEDxYouth@Waterloo. I’m sure many of you are aware of TEDxWaterloo – but did you know they’ve paved the way for a completely youth focused event? This event is a celebration of young minds and the thoughts leaders of tomorrow within our own community. Designed specifically for youth by youth, this event showcases the talent, creativity and imagination of some of the most innovative, diverse and inspiring young speakers and performers across Canada. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDxYouth@Waterloo challenges youth to be inspired these young leaders and to make a difference in their own communities. For more information, check out our webpage at

Both of these programs are filled to capacity with youth who are looking for ways to enhance their learning experience outside of the classroom. Behind them are parents who take them to and from these programs followed by hundreds of volunteers who make these programs happen – so, ask yourself – is learning outside of the classroom a thing of the past? Or a must have for our future leaders?

Alicia is an avid communicator, writer, artist and tekkie. By day she helps to transform the way the works learns as a Field Marketing Specialist for a Kitchener-based company. She’s actively involved in her local community as a Company Advisor for Junior Achievement Waterloo Regional and the Marketing and Communications Lead for TEDxYouth@Waterloo. By night she runs her own freelance marketing/design company.

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