Learning Through Living

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My family was fortunate enough to grow up near several lakes in the woods in Michigan. As a child, I spent much of my free time with my brother building forts, catching frogs, riding bikes, diving for fishing lures, and playing in imaginary lands. This childhood playground of the mind established my learning style at an early age. And although experiential learning was always my mode of choice, those early adventures helped me in the classroom as well. Foremost, the idea of learning about different opportunities gave me motivation to overcome my own reading struggles. That’s probably why Curious George Gets a Job became my indisputable book of choice. My mom’s patience was remarkable as she listened to my tongue-tied reading of George every night for six months.

My daughter Kana holding a giant starfish at a tide pool in the Pacific Northwest

Reflecting back, I now see that my early teaching style, my inherent parenting style, and my emerging leadership style are all about embracing the struggle and living life to the fullest. When you come in for a visit to my office you’ll see evidence of our numerous adventures. My shelves are full semi-precious gems, colorful sea glass, ancient fossils, curvy shells, unique rocks, international coins, and tiny gold nuggets. My sixteen-year old son has an even more substantial collection, complete with museum-quality artifacts.

Over the years, my passion for authentic learning has grown into a family tenet: a perpetual quest for life’s beauty and wisdom. Photography became a major inspiration and we created adventures based on the possibilities of discovery.  We’ve visited over forty National Parks, hiked to over a hundred waterfalls, swum with sharks and stingrays, and encountered ancient relics like cave art and Mayan ruins. One year we were invited to spend Christmas day as guests of honor by locals at a Fijian village. These journeys have brought us together as a family and were filled with learning as we did extensive research before and after the events.  Most importantly, the memories have helped us find connectivity, inspiration, and opportunity during the rough times.

My son Kellen with friends he met at a tiny island village in Fiji

At Sand Hill, my hope is that every child learns to use the critical skills acquired in the classroom in real world situations to discover unique adventures and possibilities. And vice-versa! After all, it’s this connection between practice and experience that makes life beautiful. With a little guidance and encouragement, every child can discover a passion and experience learning through living.


My family’s favorite recommendations in learning through living:

10. Take the family to the tide pools at low tide and share the sunset together.
9. Buy a local trail guide and take turns choosing your weekend hikes for a month.
8. Each family member chooses a museum to research in a historical city like Boston or Washington DC.
7. Allow your child to research an emerging passion and plan a weekend excursion to explore the area. (We’ve done gold panning, semi-precious gems, fossil digs, and petrified wood.)
6. Buy a birder book and some binoculars and spend a weekend tracking all the birds in the area.
5. Research the story of several local historic houses or buildings and then spend the day exploring them in person.
4. Bring some art supplies to a favorite place of beauty and each family member draws or paints their interpretation of the scene.
3. Make a bucket list of every State or National Park and then track each visit through a photo collage.
2. Dance together (preferably in public).
1. Plan a trip and allow each family member to research and plan a special activity or cultural experience.

Jeff Kozlowski

Love school. Sand Hill School at Children's Health Council. Accepting applications. Apply now