November 09, 2019

Why McGillis Students Can't Sit Still in Class!

McGillis School Students learning with Repertory Dance Theatre McGillis School Students learning with Repertory Dance Theatre

by Paul Chung, Middle School Math Teacher

Aristotle wrote about “learning through doing”, emphasizing a well-rounded education includes play, physical activity, and music in addition to traditional subjects. 

So how does McGillis wrap up a unit on citizenship and the rights and responsibilities of a community? Through dance, of course. How about landforms of Utah? Yep, dance. Well, what about the life cycle of pumpkins or the function of watersheds? You guessed it: dance. 

This fall, McGillis welcomed back our friend Lynne Larson, the Education Director at Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT). In addition to her role at RDT, Lynn teaches a course in Elementary Teaching Methods at the University of Utah’s School of Dance. Lynn and her students enjoyed practicing their dance teaching skills with McGillis students. “It’s always great to collaborate with organizations who enjoy thinking outside the box of teaching and learning”, shared Lynn. In collaboration, McGillis teachers from kindergarten through 5th grade provided their current unit of study topics and the dancers figured out how to support and enhance the lesson through movement. 

Research increasingly supports the best learning environment is one that is active, not passive. A recent study showed that students “actually learned more when taking part in classrooms that employed active-learning strategies”. From the science of play from Professor Ben Mardell’s work as project director of the Pedagogy of Play at Harvard’s Project Zero to the neuroscience of doing, moving, acting and interacting from Professor Emily Cross at the University of Glasgow, we know that active learning is far better for the student to learn. 

Experiential learning is nothing new, but something we emphasize at McGillis. Whether it’s our sixth graders working with the Teton Science School to collect water samples, our Kindergarteners participating in the wedding of Q & U after mastering the study of letters, or Middle School students learning everyday life skills like how to change a tire, how to tie a tie, or how to use a drill in mini-lessons with their Kehilah crews. McGillis students present to their parents and peers every year in poetry slams, wax museums, diorama presentations, and science fairs. McGillis students explore Utah with an average of nine field trips per grade each year, as well as annual Outdoor and Environmental Education (OEE) adventures in grades 3-8. 

At The McGillis School, our purpose is to create individuals committed and able to repair the world. In order to encourage our students to be advocates of the world, they need to be active participants in their education. McGillis students absolutely spend time in the classroom in the traditional sense, but as an institution, we believe in learning through doing.

To learn more about The McGillis School, visit an upcoming Prospective Parent Visit or request a private tour.