How does learning happen at Learnlife?

A step beyond traditional school, we are helping learners build their why. But what does that mean? How does learning happen at Learnlife? To give a bit of background, we currently offer 3 learning programmes — Explorers (11–13 years old), Creators (14–16 years old) and Changemakers (16+) which have been developed based on education best practices from over 100 of the most innovative schools around the world. The types of activities differ based on the cognitive abilities of the learners.

As the Director of Learning Programs, Devin Carberry, explains “young adults in the eleven to thirteen-year-old range may have great ideas but can often lack exposure to a variety of situations and experiences. This means the ideas can be big and bold but not always realistic or feasible.” To foster experiential immersion and the power of learning in context, every week the learners go out on a field trip to explore something different and live new experiences — this can be anything from visiting a courthouse to observing an appointment at a veterinary clinic. “For the Changemakers group (16+), the intention is to supercharge their vision and give them autonomy to prototype and test their personal projects and entrepreneurial ideas, while supporting their learning with mentor guidance, internships, and the creation of a digital learning portfolio,” continues Carberry.

Besides the fact that learners are not grouped by age, but rather by development level, there are many other differences between Learnlife and traditional schools: “the main difference here is that learning is done with the learners not to them; it is co-created. Rather than pushing content onto learners, they are constantly being asked what and how they want to learn,” says Carberry.

This very different approach can be challenging at first because many learners come from situations in which they didn’t typically have to make these types of decisions. Carberry talks about a process of ‘unschooling’ that often needs to take place when the learners first begin. He explains that they simply aren’t used to being treated like peers. Furthermore, in traditional schools there usually isn’t a great deal of creative thinking or the strong need to exercise executive functioning skills such as time management, creating a schedule and emotional regulating. After all, Carberry points out, there aren’t many real skills needed in order to fill out a worksheet. In contrast, he highlights that when the learners “work on a 6–8 week project that’s going to require them to collaborate across a team and connect with professional mentors and have a high-quality output” these executive functioning skills are exercised every step of the way and really mimic the way things take place in the ‘real adult world’.

Although there isn’t a typical day at Learnlife, the aim is to push the learners to the zone of proximal development, to the borderline of comfort and discomfort, the edge of what they know and don’t know. This is done through activities such as Adelante — two-week across-programme projects lead by learners, parents or Learnlife staff — which expose learners to different activities such as improv comedy, Jiu-Jitsu, DJing and culminate in showcases. Another key aspect of the programmes is an hour of every day devoted to socio-emotional work called Real Talk. All programs also have studio time where they can work with experts in sound, fashion, digital fabrication, and 3D modelling studios. Finally, there is a core skill-building component of all programmes where literacy and numeracy are applied to relevant contexts, as well as research and life navigation skills, where learners work on skills like storytelling and personal branding.

If you want to learn more about Learnlife, watch our video that summarises how we learn at Learnlife: