For Kids With ADHD, Active Learning Experiences Are Everything

Students who have ADHD get distracted easily and often struggle to sit still for extended periods of time. Many will attest to the fact that they are constantly being told to “sit down and be quiet.” For young people with ADHD this seemingly simple suggestion can actually be an incredible challenge. 

That’s why at Bayhill, we take pride in providing hands-on, active learning experiences that engage our student’s energetic nature instead of condemning it. 

Most high school history courses involve long lectures and hours of required reading—sometimes 30 pages a night from a thick textbook with a tiny font—followed by several written responses or worksheets to prove that the student completed the reading. Most of our students would get next to nothing out of this kind of exercise—aside from a headache. 

Everyday Bayhill teachers use multimodal techniques to present lessons to our young learners.

Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic stimulation are all employed to encourage many different kinds of learners to be able to absorb the information. In addition to our multimodal classrooms, we always take advantage of opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. 

A big part of our Bayhill culture is rooted in community involvement. Bayhill students are able to gain tangible, immediate meaning from experiences exploring our larger Bay Area community. Outdoor adventures to museums, events and historical destinations are examples of experiential education. 

Through experiential education, our unique learners are able to see, feel, and interact with information for themselves, instead of simply reading facts and memorizing dates from a textbook. 

While experiential education has been common in vocational and professional programs for a long time, this idea is only recently being brought into schools. The Association of American Colleges and Universities supports the inclusion of experiential education in academic environments:

“[B]eyond building the kind of social skills, work ethic, and practical expertise that are important in professionally oriented programs… experiential education can also lead to more powerful academic learning and help students achieve intellectual goals.”

The AACU insists that while classroom skills are important to develop, the “real world” of higher education and work life demands “real world” experience. “[E]xperiential education can help students transition more gracefully from college to work, and community-service experiences prepare them to be more engaged citizens.”

Citation: Association of American Colleges and Universities

In an effort to prepare our students to become engaged citizens, our history teacher, Osiah Carbanou, recently took his classes to Angel Island. There his students were able to fully realize the magnitude of the historical events they’d been studying in class. 

He had this to say of their experience: 

We drove with 12 students to Tiburon crossing the Richmond Bridge. From there, it was a 10 minute ferry to Angel Island and steep hike to the Immigration Processing Center. Everyone’s spirits were high being off campus. We found spiders hiding under tree bark and enjoyed the walk to the immigration station.

Many people in the Bay Area don’t know much about the history of Angel Island. 

From 1882-1943, the United States singled out Chinese Immigrants to be excluded from the American Dream. In order to get around the law, many claimed to have 10 or more children back in China. These papers were sold to Chinese Immigrants who would be kept on Angel Island and questioned for weeks or months at a time to prove they were these ‘paper’ sons and daughters. Until they could pass these tests, they were imprisoned and subjected to cruel conditions. These people carved thousands of sorrowful poems into the walls that remain a testament to the suffering they endured.

The processing center is a monument to the racism immigrants confronted and in their pursuit of a better life. To see this injustice I hope will inspire my students to see the need for acceptance of immigrants in the here and now. 

Poetry carved into the walls were spackled with wood putty and painted over 6 times. One cross section revealed a poem from each of the 6 layers. Knowing that so many painful poems were hidden behind the coats of paint gave the building an air of mystery. 

I had read about the poems years before, but had no idea they covered the walls so thoroughly. There wasn’t a corner left without some message left behind – and not just from Chinese immigrants, but Japanese prisoners of war, Hindus, and Russians Jews. 

It’s one thing to read the poetry of imprisoned immigrants and quite another to look out the barred windows that inspired their stories.

Thanks to Mrs. Lobell, Mrs. Austin, Dean Trevine, and Ms. Bell for making this happen!