Experiential Education

Why we emphasize experiential education

Experiential education is about learning by doing. There is no better way to internalize learning than through hands-on experience.

Experiential learning is about community building

Students and teachers are together during experiential activities. Social and generational boundaries are blurred, and the very notion of going away together brings us together and makes us responsible for each other.

Experiential education is about making classroom learning personal

When you see your teachers slipping down a muddy trail, covered in grease, driving your bus, or presenting their art like everyone else, you see their humanity. Students say that after these experiential activities they feel closer and more connected to their teachers.

Experiential education is about cooperation

Experiential education is about learning socially and collaboratively. It is about the responsibility Catlin Gabel community members have to each other. Students explore how to work together toward a goal and, if they fail, figure out together where things went wrong. We often start with putting up tents!

Experiential education is about learning

Often there is a curricular or service learning component to experiential education trips. Sometimes it’s about Lewis and Clark or volcanoes at Mt. St. Helen’s. Other times we are removing scotch broom at Silver Falls State Park or cleaning beaches along the Willamette River. Always, learning takes place outside the classroom.

Experiential education is also about moving beyond Catlin Gabel

Yes—experiential education occurs outside the classroom. We travel to a wide variety of places, some of which are remote. We meet new people and groups that exist beyond the Catlin Gabel community.

Experiential education is about risk taking

Middle school is a time when kids can safely take risks. We work together to educate kids about the difference between positive and negative risk taking. Ropes courses, adventure initiatives, and group sharing provide opportunities to try new things, accept challenges, and learn about each other.

An independent preschool through 12th grade day school in Portland, Oregon
8825 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, Oregon 97225 |
503-297-1894 |

Explore why Catlin Gabel is a national leader in progressive education.

We welcome more than 100 new families annually to our inclusive community from the Portland area and beyond.


A demanding and engaging program in which each student is the unit of consideration

Playing sports involves life lessons in determination, grace, and resilience. We invite everyone to be part of a team.

Extensive support ensures our students are successful.

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We foster a community that appreciates our differences and recognizes our essential unity

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