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Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is an extensive educational philosophy that focuses attention on the student experience.

Following the work of Kolb and Kolb, the learning cycle begins with a concrete experience, transitions to reflective observation, moves to abstract thinking, and completes with active experimentation.

The transformative mode of experiential learning can be applied in any educational environment, in or out of the classroom.  At Emma Willard School, thanks to our talented educators, generous resources, and fortuitous location, the experience is what makes the difference. Beginning with the student, events in the Experiential Learning Department are powerful because of the special relationship students have with their teachers. School facilities and connections with community partners in the Capital District of upstate New York make possible the great strides students take in the programs in this department.

The Experiential Learning Cycle: a circle with arrows and the words Experiencing, Reflecting, Thinking, Acting

Download our course catalog for more details and graduation requirements.

Course Catalog

Community Engagement & Social Impact

The “head, heart, and hands” to create positive change in the world

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Environmental Justice Class at Collard City Growers


Explore your own ideas and passions through personalized independent study

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Tina and Ms. Schmidt wearing matching outfits during Spirit Week’s ‘Dress Like a Teacher Day.’


Our capstone program for juniors and seniors centered around exploring a personal interest

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A student and alum sitting on a large leather chair in a room full of taxidermy and lab specimens

STEAM 9 & 10

Transdisciplinary programs for ninth and tenth grades synthesizing science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics

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Science lab experiment


The 2023–2024 school year marks the first year of Jestermester!

During Jestermester, Emma teachers and students alike will embrace the spirit of the Jester and bring an extra sense of play and adventure to the work of teaching and learning. Jestermester courses are designed to energize and inspire our student body, asking them to think on their feet, work together to solve problems, and step outside of their comfort zones to explore the world beyond their classroom walls. Jestermester takes place the week before spring break, and students will choose from almost 30 different options of experiential learning opportunities!


Jester hat

Experiential Learning Highlights

Experiential Learning Faculty

Jon Calos

Jon Calos

Experiential Learning Department Chair, Signature Director, Homer L. Dodge Instructor in Science
Laszlo Bardos

Laszlo Bardos

Mathematics Instructor
Gemma Halfi

Gemma Halfi

Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Bridget McGivern

Bridget McGivern

Director of Practicum, Assistant Crew Coach, 11th Grade Class Dean
Kaitlin Resler

Kaitlin Resler

Associate Director of Content Marketing