Experiential Learning

Upper School Students Experiential learning

The Upper School encourages students to dive deeper into their areas of interests by creating intentional opportunities for discovery and exploration. Experiential learning is part of the curriculum for every student at each grade level. 

The specific academic-opportunities for hands-on learning that are organized by the Upper School can vary each academic year, but typical examples are featured below. Co-curricular programming also features numerous ways for students to participate in activities that are meaningful for them.

Class Trips

Each grade level goes on a class trip every year with teachers, and for ninth graders, with older peer mentors to build relationships with each other. 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. These outings also often involve some type of community engagement activity, such as reconstructing trails in the National Forests, restoring habitat for local species, or harvesting food for distribution. 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 activities, known as immersives. These sessions, which are taken pass/no pass, allow for a single-focus of learning with a variety of teachers and students across grade levels. Recent offerings have included: Taiko and Asian American History, Walking the Wildwood Trail, Comic Book Creation, Photography, Sea Kayaking, and Bird Watching.

Teaching Assistants

With approval from teachers, students can become teaching assistants in Computer Science, English, Modern Languages, or Science classes. They help with homework, set-up labs and review sessions and can help plan and lead the class toward the end of the semester.

Dialogue for Democracy

In this semester-long elective, students spend time in the community, learning from experienced journalists and teachers, and practice their writing and publishing journalistic skills by producing a student-run digital weekly newspaper and a printed semester edition, known as CatlinSpeak. Open to all Upper School students.

Senior Projects

Senior Projects provide opportunities for students to engage with the local community while living Catlin Gabel’s mission of “inspired learning leading to responsible action.” 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.