The Power of Immersion in a Classroom

The teacher asked, “Have you ever seen a situation in the developing world where people were able to grow food but because of the socio-political climate they were still going hungry?”

The student replied, “Yes.”

  In classes like "Widow and Orphan Care" students are able to acknowledge the diverse situations that widows face around the world, and also the similarities they see. 

In classes like "Widow and Orphan Care" students are able to acknowledge the diverse situations that widows face around the world, and also the similarities they see. 

“Front loaded” education is the typical collegiate model in the U.S. Students are first introduced to the theory then taught particular technical skills they will need to use when they get a job after graduation. One of the problems with this model is that students have a difficult time learning these skills when they have never been introduced to real problems on the field. How many students have you heard lamenting that they wished they had paid attention in school?

  Anna Hastings' immersion project was to host the second season of a soccer league on our campus in rural El Salvador.  

Anna Hastings' immersion project was to host the second season of a soccer league on our campus in rural El Salvador.  

At the Institute, one of the ways we address this issue is through what we call Immersion trips. An Immersion is a plunge into the culture, language, and lives of people living in 3rd World country. Undergraduate students at the Institute are required to go on three Immersions before graduation (not including an introductory Internship).

This synthesis of classroom instruction and Immersion trips abroad creates a unique and dynamic classroom environment. Teachers are not forced to rely upon hypothetical situations when teaching concepts. Students’ questions are based on their own experiences; the people they have met and the issues they have seen.

This summer, students from the Institute went on immersion trips in each of our four international locations. They implemented projects that they had planned out during their Spring semester, doing everything from teacher training at local elementary schools, to facilitating soccer leagues, to increase efficiency in food production efforts, to conducting eye exams or dance classes or offering tutoring and literacy lessons. Their experiences abroad are not disconnected from their experience in the classroom--they go hand-in-hand, and make our classrooms even more dynamic.

One of my prayers for students when they study is that they can see people beyond pages. Students are not diligently studying the Bible and Community Development for their own sake, but for the sake of the precious (and neglected) people in the developing world. Immersion trips are an integral component to an educational experience that is real, relevant, and dynamic. In beginning a new Institute semester, I'm so excited to see the ways that our students' time abroad has shaped them into even more curious students who are asking appropriate questions for the kinds of communities they hope to impact.