hands-on magnet high school in connecticut

The Benefits of a Hands-On High School Education

When you look back on your high school education, what do you remember most? Was it the boring, mundane lectures? Or was it the days you got to get out of the classroom and explore the world around you first-hand? The days that you got to get up out of your chair and create, experiment, and discover using new materials or technologies? Chances are, days like the latter are the ones that stick out in your memory.

That’s because teenagers seek to be engaged with those hands-on experiences. Throughout adolescence, our brains are most malleable – dynamically changing, absorbing, pruning, and then retaining the information and experiences that interest us. Learning during adolescence is extremely valuable, but in order to for things to stick, it must be engaging for growing teens. That is why a hands-on high school can help support this extremely critical period in a teenager’s life – providing a learning environment that promotes a hands-on, interactive classroom approach.

Teenagers often express disinterest in learning or paying attention to adults, to rules, or in class. This is natural, given their stage of development. As a result, high schools need to find a way to engage teenagers in their education, and make them active participants in the learning process. One way to do so, and to avoid boring teens with classroom lectures, is to integrate hands-on learning experiences into the everyday curriculum.

Purdue University conducted a study in which they compared two sets of students learning about water quality. The first set was taught through traditional textbook lessons, while the second set was taught by design modules in which students were actually building a hands-on water purification system. The result? The study found that the second set of students who had the hands-on learning experience had a better understanding of the subject over those who were taught via the traditional lecture-based methods. This shows that a hands-on high school education can actually enrich the learning experience for students and boost their knowledge in certain subjects.

A hands-on high school, like Connecticut River Academy in East Hartford, makes hands-on learning a priority. Connecticut River Academy is an early college magnet school that offers students a curriculum filled with active learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom doors. Inside the classroom, students have access to state-of-the-art technology and collegiate-level science laboratories, where they can learn first-hand about important topics, such as environmental science and climate change. Furthermore, students have access to cutting-edge manufacturing equipment and high-tech machinery such as robotics and 3-D printers, allowing students to explore modern technology and see how current advancements will help shape the future of our world.

With the Connecticut River right at students’ fingertips, students are immersed in many environmental science excursions outside of the classroom, as well. In addition to conducting science projects in this natural environment, students have the opportunity to actually learn on the Connecticut River, in our new research vessel, a 40-foot boat called the Goodwin Navigator.

What’s more than a hands-on high school education, is a theme-based, hands-on high school education. As we’ve detailed in past articles, the benefits of a theme-based education for adolescents is extremely valuable. Education Week, for example, found that high school students focusing on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are more enthusiastic about learning, and transfer this optimism to their peers. The Public School Review reports that students in theme-based high schools surpass the levels of achievement they would have otherwise reached in their district-zoned schools, largely due to the narrowed focus on subjects that interest and engage them most. Combine this interest in certain subjects with hands-on learning experiences, and the enthusiasm for education will only grow.

As a parent, we understand how important it is to see your children succeed. Much of that success is dependent on how prepared they are to handle the future and the world outside of the classroom. Having the necessary skills to be able to make an impact and succeed in the world is extremely important for your child – which is where a hands-on high school can help. Hands-on high schools help students connect their classroom learnings with their surroundings, and encourages them to apply education to their lives beyond high school.

Give your teenagers the tools and hands-on experiences they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Contact Connecticut River Academy at Goodwin College today to learn more about our hands-on high school approach, and how it can make an impact in your child’s life. You may also sign-up for a parent information session to get more details about CTRA.