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What is Experiential Learning?

Middle School Robotics
The head of school walks and talks with primary school students outdoors.

These years represent the most rapid growth your child will ever undergo.

So this is the most important time for them to ask, to try, to fail, to puzzle over, to try again, to bounce up and down hand raised high, to learn—deeply—which only happens when your child is engaged and excited. Our curriculum is grounded in experiences designed to do just that. Along the way, your child will quietly (or not-so-quietly) gain and hone the skills most pivotal for their future success.

What is experiential learning? Put simply, it’s turning learning into an experience for students.

We immerse your child in the curriculum through activities, projects and places that stoke their curiosity and encourage them to learn deeper. Research shows that learning experiences that engage multiple senses produce the highest recall and provide context around content.

Class environments may shift from academic building to farm to outdoor classroom to national park to Cleveland museums to international cities—but one constant remains: the most engaging and effective learning happens at Old Trail.

  • Without the constraints of standardized testing, Old Trail dives into content with depth and excitement that would not be possible at most schools.
  • Off-campus experiences range from trips to Everett Covered Bridge to Toronto as students make observations, draw comparisons and establish connections in different surroundings.
  • The Fellowship in Creativity gives seventh and eighth grade students the means to pursue an independent study in the area of their choice, while being supported by a faculty mentor.
  • Using LEGO Education kits, students design, create and program robots to perform tasks, incorporating engineering and coding principles in a dynamic way. 
Grade 6 students create sketches in the English Garden at Stan Hywet.

Each year, Grade 6 students participate in week of interdisciplinary learning, hands-on adventures and individualized pursuits at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. Designed and implemented by the Grade 6 faculty team, students connect the past and present through a series of oral history interviews, core classes and engaging electives.

Old Trail teachers are passionate about teaching—not just as a job, but as a calling to support children in their educational journeys.

Amanda Irwin, ECP and Primary School Director

Exterior photo of the Merryweather Outdoor Classroom

The newly completed Merryweather Outdoor Classroom includes indoor and outdoor seating for 50 students and a "living roof"—all in a space that expands our ability to learn from and engage with nature.

Experience: the Difference

From age 2 to Grade 8, our curriculum presents academic challenges that our students can’t wait to embrace. Curricular highlights include:

  • 45–50 independent or small-group projects per year
  • 30 academic and arts electives
  • 20 field trips per year
  • 6 overnight experiential learning trips between grades 5–8
  • 3 3D printers
  • 9 VR headsets, including 4 Oculus Go headsets and 1 room-scale HTC VIVE headset

In world languages, our teachers apply the latest research on language acquisition by introducing genuine engagement with the target language, not outdated grammar-based instruction. By the time they reach the Middle School, our students move beyond the typical proficiency levels as they read contemporary novels, write narratives and converse in ways that reflect a native speaker learning his or her own language.

This is learning for their world.

Our teachers connect with students on an individual level, diving into their world to discover what motivates and inspires them.

In fact, our experiential approach only works because our enthusiastic teachers have the unique ability to challenge your child by exciting them to achieve more.

We believe school is a partnership among teachers, children and their parents. As a result, teachers communicate frequently with parents about their children’s performance through emails, daily blog posts, the SeeSaw interactive portfolio app, and professional advice for extending school into the home.

We go further than test scores—and deeper into what really matters for your child’s success.

Old Trail graduates leave with the critical-thinking skills, creativity and confidence they need to succeed at private secondary schools, public high schools and beyond. Old Trail instills a broad global perspective in its graduates because they are entering and will be leading in a highly connected world.