Experiential Learning in EL

The Happening

Elementary student celebrating EL Holi

Every year, Early Learners participate in an in-depth study of a specific theme called "The Happening." The experience is a high interest, immersive look at a single topic which enhances students' understanding of content information, develops their problem solving skills, and allows them to practice applying knowledge and ideas through project-based learning. Previous topics for The Happening include Great Rivers of the World, Myths and Legends, the Wild West, Celebrating 50 Years (1969), and Life on the Farm.

During The Happening, regular daily work is suspended. However, theme-related study in all curricular areas is included in the schedule.

Additionally, grade levels engage in activities, field trips, and with outside guests associated with the annual theme. These extras are rich opportunities designed to broaden student experiences.

Classes create student-driven projects and their work is heady and multifaceted including planning, designing, and executing ideas. Students are fully engaged and share ownership in this creative process. Taking a deep dive and going beyond what is typically found in classrooms is commonplace at Galloway!

Field Trips

Learning by doing and reinforcing learning with a variety of experiences and exposures is an integral part of our curriculum. From Pre-Kindergarten II to fourth grade, Early Learning students participate in a wide variety of field trips and extension activities. Examples of recent field trips:

  • Alliance Theatre
  • Center for Puppetry Arts
  • High Museum of Art
  • Booth Museum of Western Art in Cartersville
  • 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Galla’s Pizza Restaurant
  • Cobb County Youth Museum
  • Blue Heron Nature Preserve
  • Atlanta Beltline
  • Atlanta Community Food Bank
  • Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
  • Zoo Atlanta
  • Best Friends Pet Adoption Center
  • Georgia Aquarium
  • Woodruff Arts Center
  • The Home Depot
  • The Michael C. Carlos Museum
  • Peachtree Dekalb airport
  • Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • Farm Chastain
  • Johns Creek Water Plant
  • Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville
  • City Farmers Market
  • Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama
Lower School Group photo


Throughout the school year, students share what they have learned in integrated units through music, dance, theatre, and visual art presentations. These experiences are collaboratively created by the classroom and arts teachers. Parents and peers are invited to performances and exhibits built around a variety of topics including historical periods, multicultural explorations and math, language arts and science concepts. Recent examples of class performances include fairytale theatre, living biographies, ocean exploratory, and poetry slams.

Students also experience live performances featuring a variety of artists from in and outside the school community. Some of our routine experiences are listed below.

  • Weekly Wonderful Wednesday Performances, quarterly Fabulous Friday Concerts and a variety of concerts featuring musical styles from classical music to blues, a cappella ensembles to symphony orchestras and rock bands.
  • Special performances by the Galloway Dance Ensemble as well as guest artists from the Atlanta dance community.
  • Performances by professional, visiting theatre artists
  • Presentations by authors, historians, community leaders


To build community, Early Learning holds monthly assemblies, a gathering of all students in the elementary division. For these gatherings, grade level teachers select one month per year in which children in that grade level have the opportunity to display their “talents” including, but not limited to singing, storytelling, dancing, and instrument playing. Performance is strictly voluntary. Fourth graders serve as masters of ceremony.

Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten enrichment classes

Early Learning Kindergarten students (and new for the 2019-20 school year Pre-Kindergarten) stay at school until 3:00 p.m. This schedule allows the students to participate in enrichment activities during the school day while at the same time allowing for more exploration and center play for our students. Enrichment classes are scheduled once a week for 7 - 8 week rotations. Examples of these outside-the-classroom experiences include an additional hands-on science class, chess, drama, yoga, and Jump Start.

Passion Projects

Throughout the year, students in first through fourth grade participate in “passion project” time. Project ideas are generated by students, but follow a protocol outlined by teachers. Students conduct research, determine obstacles or challenges they might face, and then problem solve to determine solutions. All projects have a culminating presentation. Teachers provide guidance and input to keep the focus on the process and problem-solving. Younger students work on projects as a whole class or in half groups while older students work individually or in small group, collaborative teams on a shared topic. Read an article from the AJC about a recent class of fourth-graders and their passion projects.

Fourth-grade Overnight Trip

4G coast trip

Early Learning fourth graders, along with their teachers and administrators, travel to coastal Georgia on an annual trip as part of their science study of ecology and the scientific method. Prior to the trip, they conduct experiments, research land regions, oceans and ocean animals, weather, and island living. Their study comes to life as they explore the beaches, marshes, woodlands, and Atlantic Ocean during this three-day, two-night jaunt. The trip provides students with the opportunity to learn outside the classroom, collaborate and bond with teachers and classmates, and practice acting responsibility and autonomously while in a safe, controlled environment. 

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