Experiential Learning

7th grade students on kayaks at Angel Island

Kirby recognizes the importance of learning beyond the walls of a classroom. Our holistic approach to education includes opportunities for students to learn through experiences that help them shape their understanding of the world while integrating principles discussed in the classroom. These experiences include community service projects, field trips, class trips and retreats, and more.



One of our signature programs is the grade-level fall retreat. These are immersive experiential learning opportunities which occur in the early days of the school year. All grades participate. Retreats help establish a positive social climate and build connections between students and faculty. As a school that builds our success on partnership and community, we believe that providing these shared experiences will help students cultivate meaningful relationships with their peers and teachers. Retreats in 10th and 11th grades include immersive travel to destinations which in the past have included Costa Rica, South Carolina and Washington D.C. These offer the opportunity for each student to build both a broader context for classroom studies and an expanded framework for understanding the world and its vast communities.

Community Service

Service learning is an integral part of the Kirby educational experience. In addition to Community Day--where our community undertakes upwards of 1000 hours of service in a single day--opportunities arise during the school year to pair hands on learning with classroom lessons, producing a holistic learning experience.

Students have taken water samples on behalf of the county, worked at election polls, organized school-wide clothing swaps, and more. Students are encouraged to pursue capstone projects for their Intensive Paths or Independent Study courses in their own areas of interest. These experiences build leadership skills and provide deeper insight into social, economic, environmental, and other forces that shape our community. 

Field trips

Throughout the academic year, Kirby faculty organize field trips to deepen understanding and provide hands-on experiences. Last year, students visited Ano Nuevo State Park, the Santa Cruz County courthouse, the San Lorenzo River, and a professional production studio, to name a few.

8th grade students sitting around white water rafts smiling

"At Kirby, we are given the opportunity to be hands on in our learning. Hands-on learning helps me retain information, and allows me to gain a deeper understanding of the topics we investigate."Kirby 12th Grade Student