HFCA Student Nationally Recognized for Learning Beyond Classroom
This is the season where we applaud students for their achievements on standardized tests and grade point averages. Such quantifiable measures of academic success certainly deserve accolades, but sometimes the most indelible learning experiences are those that take place beyond textbooks and beyond the classroom.
Holy Family Catholic Academy (Inverness) is celebrating one of its middle school students who was recently recognized nationally for learning about a complex topic from the experiences of people very different from herself. Seventh grader, Issy Groebner, took second place in the national Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) Creating on the Margins Youth Art Contest. Annually, CCHD uses this contest to engage students in grades 7-12 throughout the United States to learn about the root causes of poverty in our country and the Church's faith-inspired efforts to address these complex issues. This year's theme was entitled "More than a Roof" and encouraged students to learn about homelessness and, through their art, teach their communities about this issue.
Issy created a video in which she interviewed a homeless couple. Explaining her experience, Issy states, "I learned so much more from meeting face to face than I ever could have learned from a textbook. This experience made me realize that most people don't fully understand the daily issues homeless people go through. It is so much more than not having a roof over your head."
Issy's reflection is exactly what HFCA, the only International Baccalaureate World School (IB) in the northwest suburbs, hopes to achieve with its nationally and internationally recognized curriculum and instruction. States Principal Kate O'Brien, "Beginning in preschool and extending through middle school, our teachers are trained to use active or experiential learning rather than more passive types of learning like lecture. As an IB school, we encourage all of our students and teachers to be reflective learners. We want learning to be authentic and hands-on and equally important to reflect on the lessons learned from these experiences." HFCA often refers to this learning as "hands-on/minds-on."
Experiential learning provides a foundation for students to own their learning and become life-long learners. Middle school teacher, Mrs. Eileen Paparone, explains, "Year after year I am amazed how our students delve so deeply into complex issues and come away with a more profound understanding. Rather than simply being aware of a subject, we often see students become more self-directed and motivated learners."
Reflecting on her unique experience, Issy says, "I appreciate people who are homeless much more now. I have learned that they withstand so much each day and knowing that they can still have hope and be happy really makes me look up to them and be a more hopeful person."
Issy's effort won an award. Her experience is a big step in her life-long journey of learning.