With the recognition that students learn better and are more engaged through direct, hands-on experiences that are relevant to them, Heathwood Hall has launched the Columbia Connections program.
Heathwood’s Columbia Connections program enhances student learning by providing unique educational opportunities with leaders from the academic, cultural, scientific, non-profit, and business communities in Columbia. Columbia Connections serves as an extension of the core academic curriculum and supplements it by providing meaningful, real-world experiences. By working with diverse members of the community, and exploring a range of issues, challenges and opportunities using different tools and resources, students gain a richer, more in-depth understanding of how the skills and knowledge they acquire in the classroom translate into real-world action.
While schools may be at the center of students’ educational experience, they are not the only centers for learning. Museums, labs, courtrooms, art studios, manufacturing centers, and more can all have a dynamic place in the learning system. Columbia Connections is about opening these learning environments up to Heathwood students more fully and creating opportunities for our students and teachers to connect and engage more fully with community life.
Basic skills development and knowledge acquisition remain a constant and important central focus of Heathwood’s curriculum. Columbia Connections allows our students and faculty to go beyond the basics by connecting what they’ve learned in the classroom to their surrounding communities.
- Utilize Columbia’s organizations, museums, universities, and neighborhoods to create authentic and challenging learning experiences
- Take advantage of local experts who can visit the school or meet with students to give presentations, participate in panel discussions, or mentor students working on major projects
- Provide our faculty with ways to enhance the concepts being taught in the classroom and connect them to personal, first-hand experiences and familiar examples in the community
- Provide ways for the school and community to develop stronger relationships, increasing understanding of and support for Heathwood and the learning experiences it provides
- Establish purposeful connections between what is being taught in the classroom and the surrounding community and its local issues, contexts, and concepts
- Create new opportunities for content mastery and skill development in areas such as leadership, collaboration, and innovative thinking.
Columbia Connections hinges on four pillars:
- Connections – Teachers make connections between the material taught in class and local issues, contexts, and concepts.
- Community integration – Educators utilize local experts by inviting them to Heathwood to give presentations, participate in panel discussions, or mentor students working on a long-term research project.
- Community participation – Students learn more by actively participating in their community.
- Citizen action – Students use what they learn to influence, change or give back to the community in some meaningful way.
Examples of recent Columbia Connections programs include:
- Representatives from the Richland County Board of Elections speaking to Middle School civics students about the voting process
- The Riverkeeper and Gills Creek Watershed Association speaking to groups on campus about the watershed, water quality testing, and storm drains
- Heathwood students providing aerial surveys of the watershed with our drone for community organizations and collaborating with EngenuitySC on the “What’s Next Midlands” project
- The Middle School partnering with Palmetto Health to create “Art for Change,” a program in which our students create and curate an ongoing, thematic art exhibit for elderly hospital patients