Summer Social Learning: School without Walls

One of my favorite songs is “Summertime” by Will Smith. I always anticipate hearing this song as the summer season gets closer. No matter what I’m doing or where I am, simply hearing the lyrics “…summer, summer, summertime…just sit back and unwind” puts a smile on my face and a wiggle in my hips. Yes, the summer season makes me want to have fun, dance, eat great food, and most of all, enjoy the company of my family and friends. Over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy all of the excitement that comes with summer while at the same time, continuing to learn, grow and develop by adding “social learning” to a few of my fun summer gatherings. Do you remember doing group projects with classmates or even having a spirited debate with friends in the school cafeteria about social studies? Do you remember how those events forced you to really examine and defend what you knew about a topic? The fact of the matter is that social settings are excellent learning environments. So much so that educators around the globe are using educational theories that include social components.

1482680The theory of Social Constructionist states that most students learn better in social environments because purposeful social exchanges allow the learner to expand and build on their understanding of a given topic. The foundation of the theory is that in social settings, everyone has the ability to be both a teacher and a student. Let’s say you want to learn about financial investments. You could read a few books, take a course and go to a seminar. Each of these options would provide you with great insight and information. Instead of going to the seminar alone, what if you took a few of your friends? Afterwards, you all go to your home and discuss the new information. During the course of the discussion, each of you would likely deepen your understanding because you would learn from the perspectives of your peers. Yes, you read correctly, you can foster personal growth by having meaningful social activities!

Think for a moment about all the social gatherings you will host or attend this summer. Now eliminate, mentally, the big ones. Just focus on the intimate ones with your best girlfriends or family. I challenge you to turn one or two of these gatherings into a purposeful social learning lab. Simply let your guests know that there will be a fun discussion on a topic of your choice and instruct everyone to come prepared to share a fact or two. This is a great way to turn your BBQ into a meaningful social learning experience for everyone. Educators are doing this in the classroom, so why not make your next event a school without walls. Instead of calling the roll, roll with the goal to have fun and learn at the same time!