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Engaging in Real-World Learning Experiences

Authentic learning opportunities for students to explore their interests


Experiential learning is an incredibly powerful instructional strategy for K-12 students. Being able to engage in real-world experiences can help students deeply explore their interests, have authentic learning opportunities, and develop 21st-century skills. Several virtual and hybrid schools have incorporated project-based experiences (also known as project-based learning, or PBL) into their middle and high school programs, each with a unique approach.


Here are some innovative programs that virtual and hybrid schools have implemented to offer their students experiential learning in a real-world context:

  • The Forest School and The Forest School Online offer “quests,” a series of real-world challenges around a specific theme (e.g., architecture, music) that students explore deeply, and then produce work to showcase at an exhibition. Quests usually last for four to six weeks and are designed to develop 21st-century skills while simultaneously incorporating traditional topics like science, social studies, and history. (Learn more about quests.)

  • Crossroads Flex High School offers students the opportunity to participate in District C Teamship, an experiential learning program through which teams of students solve real problems for real businesses. Students partner with businesses to tackle a meaningful and urgent challenge (e.g., a local juice bar looking to revamp its in-store traffic flow to improve customer experience) and work through the problem in small teams.

  • Village High School offers students the opportunity to develop their own “individual project” course based on their interests (e.g., beekeeping, podcasting), enroll in it for the semester, and complete the course for credit after demonstrating their learning.

  • VLACS offers their students interest-based “experiences”, where students have the opportunity to explore their passions and talents through independent learning, entrepreneurship, service learning, internships, travel, and more. Students design the experiences themselves along with a plan for mastering specific competencies. (Learn more about Experiences at VLACS.)

“Learners actually get a chance to see how they can use their math, how they can use their science, [and] how they can use their social studies skills in order to help someone. That’s inspiring for kids – when they get a chance to make a difference by using what they know.” - Tyler Thigpen, Head of The Forest School

Strategy Resources

Flexible Learning Pathways at VLACS

Students at VLACS can create their own “experiences”, in which they have the option of... Learn More

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Real-World Business Problems at Crossroads FLEX High School

Crossroads FLEX High School offers students the opportunity to participate in District C Teamship, an... Learn More

Individual Projects Course at Village High School

Village High School offers students the opportunity to develop their own individual project course (e.g.... Learn More