How is TBB Learning Different from High School?

Gap Year Experiential LearningLearning on a TBB gap year program is a fusion of fieldwork with experts, deep cultural immersion, and meaningful discussions all backed by a powerful curriculum. Unlike a traditional classroom education, students have the opportunity to engage in a learning environment designed to help them better understand critical global issues, think about solutions they want to see in the world, and prepare for successful careers that create meaningful change. They gain practical knowledge and experience on global issues and develop skills that lead to self discovery.

Let’s look at students’ first hand perspectives on how this learning impacted them:

The Curriculum

The structure of the seminars provides students the chance to meet three afternoons per week and explore their burning questions from the readings, fieldwork projects, and their homestay experiences. Emily Sanders believes the process shaped her critical thinking skills.

Seminars are two hours of intellectual exploration with peers as invested and curious about the world as you. I’d never experienced a discourse community like TBB seminars. Seminars are so different from the high school classroom setting as the focus of the discussion is based around asking questions for understanding rather than offering the ‘right’ answers. Through seminars with TBB, my perspective and thinking process changed completely. – Emily Sanders, TBB ’14

Engaged Learning

Students work alongside local experts, gaining first-hand experience with the issues they are discussing in seminars. They get the chance to reflect on what they find to be innovative and inspiring, and how their ideas of social impact change over time. For Meg John, the highpoint of her gap year was being able to match her capabilities with real world experience.

Gap Year Field Based Learning[In high school…] Rarely was I pushed to truly relate to my learning and to critically think about why what we were talking about was relative or important to know. Rarely was my imagination or creativity exercised beyond colorfully arranging information on posters. I was told that I was successful based on a standard that was not reflective of my mental capabilities or my relationship to the world. While on my gap year the tendency to isolate my learning from life fell away. Life was learning and all experiences were important and had a significant impact. – Meg John, TBB ’14

Media Projects

Students create media projects exploring their interests and questions. They investigate issues related to natural resources, education, public health, sustainable agriculture, and development theories. Audrey Falk explored gender inequality through her relationships with women in the communities where she lived.

The entire media project process was really important to me. My partner Markita and I ended up with a bilingual podcast called “Ser Mujer”, which explores the experiences of women in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Along the way I met, interviewed, observed and learned from incredible women with incredible stories, and soon I became intimately engaged with their experiences. Being in the position to put forth those voices was powerful and also a great responsibility. I realized that while we can all find common ground, it is unacceptable to represent those voices with a single story. The experience revealed how important gender issues are to me, and this has certainly given me a new lens through which I see myself and the world. –Audrey Faulk, TBB ‘14

College Preparation

We build a learning environment with clear intention for how we would impact students. We aim to produce students with clear purpose for and ownership of their learning. We want them to have the skills and consciousness to know who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to impact the world. We want them to be ready to passionately pursue expertise in a topic that matters to them and matters to the world. Shawn Childs shares how the support of TBB-style learning prepared her for college.

I felt much more prepared, and maybe even more importantly, much more invested in my college courses than many of my peers. TBB taught me to take an active role in my education and to be an advocate for myself. I was able to relate to the information on a much more practical, realistic level. I sought out classes that had a reputation for being more focused on student-involvement and steered away from larger, lecture style-courses. This is a bit of advice that I would pass on to anyone entering college as it’s by far the best way to feel comfortable with and fully understand the relevance of the information being taught, as well as becoming more confident in yourself. – Shawn Childs TBB’11

A gap year provides a learning environment that is different from high school because it supports the unique learning paths of students, fosters quality interactions to shape perspectives and creates a sense of community among peers, which are valuable as they transition to college.

Find more resources and read about students’ gap year experiences on Thinking Beyond Borders Blog and Students Gap Year Blogs.

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