Experiential Learning

Upper School Students Experiential learning

On any given day, in classrooms and clubs, through trips and through assignments, Catlin Gabel high school students engage in direct experience, reflection, analysis, and experimentation that encourage learning, inspire personal growth, and promote active citizenship. 

A few stand-alone learning experiences occur outside of routine class work. Some of these opportunities are featured below.

Class Trips

Each grade level goes on a class trip every year. Teachers look forward to getting to know students during these trips, and many of the games and activities define the culture and community in the Upper School. Graduates often remark that class trips were particularly memorable and important periods of connection with their peers. 


In May, when all academic work has concluded, Upper School students select from a range of two-week single-focuses experiential classes, known as immersives, which are taken pass/no pass. These courses allow for community building between teachers and students across grade levels, and on- and off-campus learning while interacting with the larger Portland and regional community. Recent offerings have included: rock climbing skills, photography, play production, leadership in the outdoors, creating a website, biking in Portland, economics, planting a pollinator garden, making a pizza oven (and pizza), hiking the Wildwood trail, and bird watching.

Teaching Assistants

With approval from teachers, students may become teaching assistants in computer science, English, modern languages, math, or science classes. Teacher Assistants collaborate with other learners on homework, set up labs, organize review sessions, and may help plan and lead classes.

Senior Projects

Senior Projects provide opportunities for students to engage with the local community while living Catlin Gabel’s mission of fostering compassionate and curious citizens of the world. Senior Projects represent the best of experiential learning at Catlin Gabel. They are student-driven, connected to the community, skills-focused, and allow students to apply their knowledge to make an authentic impact with local businesses and organizations.