Skip to content

How alternative learning in Chicago can round out an education in art, math, science, and history

While traditional classroom learning forms the foundation of education, there is immense value in supplementing in-school with learning experiences beyond the classroom walls. From exploring the wonders of nature to delving into historical sites, engaging in hands-on activities, and immersing in artistic expressions, learning outside the classroom offers students a wealth of benefits. Research has shown that these experiences positively impact academic performance, personal development, and overall well-being.

The 3rd Cohort of the New Chance Fund emphasizes creating memorable experiences outside the classroom. View the benefits in action with New Chance Fund schools Finkl Elementary & South Shore International High School below and more advantages of outside-the-classroom learning and ways Chicago schools can integrate this into their curriculum.

The benefits of outside the classroom learning include:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Enhanced engagement and motivation
  • Increased retention of knowledge
  • Enhanced critical thinking skills
  • Improved problem-solving abilities
  • Boosted creativity and innovation
  • Strengthened interpersonal skills
  • Increased cultural awareness and empathy
  • Personal growth and self-confidence

Focusing on the pillars of early learning, schools have seen significant benefits of incorporating outside-the-classroom learning into curriculums.

Learning outside the classroom provides a tangible context for scientific concepts and fosters a deep appreciation for the natural world. According to a study published in the Journal of Science Education and Technology, students who engaged in outdoor science activities demonstrated significantly higher levels of scientific knowledge and understanding compared to their peers. Field trips to ecological reserves, zoos, and botanical gardens allow students to observe and interact with real-life ecosystems, enhancing their understanding of ecological principles and biodiversity.

Places in Chicago to learn about history outside of the classroom:

  1. Museum of Science and Industry: Interactive science exhibits on physics, chemistry, biology, and technology.
  2. Adler Planetarium: Astronomy museum with planetarium shows and telescope viewing.
  3. Shedd Aquarium: Large indoor aquarium for learning about marine life and conservation.
  4. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Nature-focused museum with live animals and exhibits on biodiversity.
  5. Chicago Botanic Garden: Beautiful garden with diverse plant collections, teaching about botany and environmental stewardship.

Learning math in real-world contexts outside the classroom helps students see the practical applications of mathematical concepts. A report published by the National Research Council found that students who engaged in hands-on math activities outside the classroom showed increased motivation and improved problem-solving skills. For instance, visiting a science museum or architectural site can expose students to mathematical principles in action, such as geometric shapes, symmetry, and measurement, making abstract concepts more concrete and relatable.

Places in Chicago to learn about math outside of the classroom:

  1. Museum of Science and Industry: Interactive exhibits that showcase the practical applications of math in science and technology.
  2. The Art Institute of Chicago: Analyzing geometric patterns and proportions found in art can help students explore mathematical concepts.
  3. Chicago Architecture Foundation: Discovering the mathematical principles behind architectural designs and structures.
  4. Museum of Contemporary Art: Exploring art installations that incorporate mathematical concepts like symmetry, patterns, and spatial relationships.
  5. Chicago Children’s Museum: Interactive exhibits and activities that introduce math concepts through play and hands-on exploration.

Exploring historical sites and cultural landmarks provides students with a tangible connection to the past, deepening their understanding of history. Research has shown that visiting historical sites can enhance students’ knowledge retention and critical thinking skills. The American Alliance of Museums reports that students who engage in museum-based learning experiences score higher on measures of historical empathy, tolerance, and cultural understanding. Walking through the halls of a museum or visiting a historic battlefields and places of significance can bring history to life, enabling students to make personal connections with the past and fostering a sense of cultural appreciation.

Places in Chicago to learn about history outside of the classroom:

  1. The Field Museum: Extensive exhibits on natural history, ancient civilizations, and Chicago’s history.
  2. The Chicago History Museum: Showcasing Chicago’s past through exhibits, programs, and educational resources.
  3. The DuSable Museum of African American History: Comprehensive exploration of African American history and culture.
  4. The Pullman National Monument: Historic site showcasing industrialization and labor movements.
  5. The Hull-House Museum: Preserves the legacy of social reformer Jane Addams and immigrant experiences.

Engaging in artistic activities outside the classroom promotes creativity, self-expression, and emotional well-being. Visiting art galleries, attending live performances, or exploring public art installations exposes students to diverse artistic expressions, broadening their perspectives and encouraging them to explore their own creativity.

Places in Chicago to learn about art and theater outside of the classroom:

  1. The Art Institute of Chicago: Leading art museum with diverse collections spanning different periods.
  2. Museum of Contemporary Art: Showcasing modern and contemporary art, inspiring creative exploration.
  3. Chicago Shakespeare Theater: World-class productions of Shakespearean plays, offering student matinees and workshops.
  4. The Second City: Renowned improv comedy theater with classes and performances.
  5. Chicago Children’s Theatre: High-quality theater experiences for young audiences, fostering creativity and storytelling.

Learning outside the classroom offers students a world of opportunities to expand their horizons and enhance their educational journey. Whether it’s exploring the wonders of nature, visiting museums, engaging in hands-on activities, or immersing in artistic experiences, these experiences can have a profound impact. The statistics and research demonstrate the clear benefits of learning beyond the confines of the classroom, with positive effects seen across all school subjects. By embracing these opportunities, educators can foster a love for learning, encourage critical thinking, and nurture well-rounded individuals ready to navigate the complexities of the world.