Making Sense (Cents) With Real World Learning

Making Sense (Cents) With Real World Learning

I am a big believer in “real world” learning. By this, I mean creating authentic learning experiences that are intended to help prepare people to live, work, and thrive in a diverse, global society.  At Colorado Academy, this means developing IQ (human intelligence) and EQ (emotional intelligence).  From our new ninth grade Intensive Program or our seventh grade Outside the Box Class to Lower School events like International Day or the fourth grade’s “Mini-Society,” we put before our students the very issues and dilemmas that our world faces every day. We do this in our academic world, but also in our character and culture programming.

Perhaps one of my favorite “real-world” classes to visit is our Upper School Economics Class taught by Austin Harvey. Mr. Harvey helps students think about basic and advanced ideas about economic theory, but grounds his teaching with real-life examples and projects that are aimed at being truly authentic. Author and economist Bill Conerly lists Econ (along with Statistics, Communications, and others as one of the five “must take” courses that prepare students prepare for any major or any future job in the work place).

I agree. Some schools tend to resist economics and other so-called “business” courses because they don’t fit the traditional school canon. Yet, the knowledge and skills in these classes create the foundation for functioning in every day life. Where else might students actually have discussions about paying taxes, value vs. cost, compound interest, inflation, and more.

Further, given how many students (throughout the nation) go onto study business and finance, I think this is a serious mistake by secondary educators.  When we think about some of the disastrous ethical practices and poor leadership of companies, it becomes more evident that starting earlier and grounding students in this world will produce stronger and more ethical leaders. I taught a course on Ethics and Leadership for several years that morphed early on into an examination of entrepreneurship. I brought in various business leaders to talk about their stories and challenges and to help students understand an ethical framework for being a leader.

Mr. Harvey has been working with CA parent Gary Howard to help launch an exciting program for high school students through Colorado State’s University’s Business School. (Mr. Howard has been active in CSU’s Business School for many years.) This summer, CSU is launching a Global Business Academy.  It is an immersive program designed for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors from throughout the world.

Students will live on campus and get to know CSU faculty and each other as they learn more about business and entrepreneurship concepts. There will be team-building activities and authentic learning experiences that will provide foundational leadership skills.  Please check out the program website for more information:

No matter what a student might be interested in, we believe that we learn best through experience.  Education is a wonderful thing, but it needs to have a purpose and that needs to be obvious to students. I always want students to leave my classroom understanding how their learning is meaningful and relevant. Programs like this, in addition to what we do at CA, can be powerful.