Learning is Experiencing | August 2023

More than 60 years ago, Albert Einstein said, “Learning is experiencing. Everything else is just information.” These words were insightful then; today, they are prescient. In a world where accumulated human knowledge is instantly accessible on a smartphone and generative AI can write about as well as a human, Einstein’s quote reveals the timeless key to a world-class education.

Try this little thought exercise: Think of a powerful moment of learning that you remember from elementary or secondary school. What was the method and its core lesson? For me, I recall a time in third grade when I was put in charge of a newspaper drive—how seriously I embraced the responsibility, the organizational skills that were required, and the self-confidence I developed as a result. Maybe you have a similar story.

This is common. Often, important and lasting learning comes from direct experience, particularly when it’s intentionally linked to what’s happening in the classroom (I’m pretty sure the paper drive was actually a math lesson). This is the essence of what’s known as Experiential Education, and it’s more important now than ever.  

Not to get too dramatic about it, but the world is facing complex challenges that span international borders, and research suggests that the next generation of leaders will need a particular set of “future-ready” skills in order to tackle them—like critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, emotional intelligence, and resilience. At a more individual level, we know that today’s students will likely work in careers that don’t exist yet, where the workforce is increasingly diverse and distributed, and where human-centered skills such as teamwork, empathy, and cultural understanding are as important as technical knowledge and expertise. Experiential Education is a proven way to foster these sorts of skills—skills that will be highly valued and rewarded in the mid-21st century.

In this issue of Views from the Hill, you’ll find articles about alumni who have learned from experience and developed a lifelong passion and a sense of purpose as a result. We explore how Hopkins is responding to the new world of generative AI—clearly a new capability that students and teachers need to be familiar with. And we highlight some immersive and experiential learning programs, where today’s students are applying what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations. 

Experiential learning features prominently in Hopkins’ plans for the future. The rigorous learning that takes place in classrooms won’t change, nor will the personal bonds and relationships that form there. But we will augment those experiences with new opportunities to foster critical and global thinking, e.g., service and civic engagement initiatives, capstone projects and internships, and educational travel. And we will develop skills such as collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving through hands-on subjects like Engineering & Design, Robotics, and Entrepreneurship.  

Great education has always involved the transmission of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. But the new world of generative AI is forcing schools to redefine what’s worth learning. In response, Hopkins is doing what it has always done best: preserving a time-tested model of education while evolving to meet the demands of changing times.
Matt Glendinning, Head of School
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Hopkins is a private middle school and high school for grades 7-12. Located on a campus overlooking New Haven, CT, the School takes pride in its intellectually curious students as well as its dedicated faculty and staff.