Beyond the Castle is Not Your Average Experiential Learning | Trafalgar Castle School
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January 10, 2024

Beyond the Castle is Not Your Average Experiential Learning

Melissa Nowakowski


Experiential learning, or “learning by doing,” has become a mainstay in education. That’s because when students engage in hands-on learning experiences, they better connect what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations. 

There’s experiential learning, and then there’s Beyond the Castle: a form of experiential learning that expands beyond enhancing skill sets and real-world knowledge. Beyond the Castle also strengthens personal connections through travel and interactive encounters. It builds self-awareness and confidence through self-reflection activities and mentorship from career professionals. It also encourages students to step outside their comfort zones, offers broader insight into their core values and inspires students to contribute to their community.

Beyond the Castle is unique because it brings life at Trafalgar Castle School full circle. While students in Grades 4 through 12 venture outside of the Castle walls and across Ontario for various hands-on, real-world learning experiences, Trafalgar Castle School alumnae bring their personal real-world experiences back to our students, providing insight and mentorship for the future.

“For our students, the key takeaways of Beyond the Castle are the new cultures, friendships, clarity and experiences in which they immerse themselves. It really allows them to see what can be pursued and achieved outside our Castle walls,” says Ms. Penny Senior, Experiential Learning Coordinator and Math, Science and Tech Teacher for Grades 8, 9 and 10. “Our alumnae are given a rewarding opportunity to give back to their community, to share their experiences and their love for Trafalgar Castle School.”

Through Beyond the Castle, Grades 4 to 6 students will be immersed in hands-on activities and experiences that boost creativity and create long-lasting bonds. Grades 7 and 8 students will travel to Peterborough, Ont., to investigate our national world, while our Grade 9 students will deepen cultural connections at the intersection of tech and art in Waterloo. Students in Grade 10 will make their way to Toronto to delve into and be inspired by the world of women in STEM. Grade 12s will embark on a journey of self-discovery in Haliburton, Ont., by reflecting on their paths and envisioning their next steps post-Trafalgar. 

“Being away from their parents and learning ‘street smarts’ builds independence and is one of the key pieces of experiential learning.” Ms. Senior explains, “Our students learn about new careers, new paths. They get to see what’s available to them and where it’s available across Ontario. It’s really about learning about themselves, their core values, where they want to see themselves in the future and how to be an effective peer and mentor.”

Meanwhile, in Toronto, in addition to a variety of hands-on workshops, our Grade 11 students will engage in practicing their networking and self-promotion skills at a Networking Gala Dinner with a wide array of successful career professionals — many of whom are Trafalgar Castle School alumnae. 

“My Beyond the Castle Experience was one of the highlights of my Grade 11 year,” Sophia, a current grade 12 student, says, “During the gala, I had the opportunity to network with several professionals across various industries, including legal, business, medicine and entertainment, who all gave me incredible insight into their fields.” 

“It was valuable to hear from such a diverse group of professionals because it helped me build a more well-rounded perspective about what I aspire to achieve in my future career and what I value most in a work environment,” she adds. 

While Grade 11 students practice pitching themselves as they would for their future careers, a curated group of successful engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, CFOs, revered Canadian musicians, and more will share insight into their respective fields while providing career advice and guidance. 

Grade 12 student Mick recalls initially being apprehensive about pursuing a broad university degree and unsure of what the right opportunities would be to pursue. At the Beyond the Castle Networking Gala, some advice provided by the Marketing Director for one of Canada’s largest makeup lines helped clear the fog.

“I was fascinated to learn the path to her prestigious title wasn’t linear and that she took advantage of every opportunity that came her way.” Mick recalls, “I felt more equipped to take risks and stay true to myself when approaching future careers… Beyond the Castle was influential in carving a clear path for my future.”

Whether participating in an Engineering workshop at Toronto Metropolitan University, engaging in a Business Mock Trial in Waterloo, getting lost in an Escape Maze in Peterborough or diving into outdoor activities at Camp Kawartha, Beyond the Castle has become something our students look forward to every year. It’s an annual adventure that our teachers get excited about as well. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing how each student grows, to seeing how each student participates and steps outside their comfort zones to really engage in this whole experience.” Ms. Senior says, “I’m also looking forward to working with our alumnae and seeing the invaluable real-world perspectives and life lessons they bring back to our community. I’m excited to watch Trafalgar life come full circle.”

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