Education students learn the importance of hands-on learning

William Woods EDU

As an undergraduate education major you will be working in classrooms full of students with vastly different learning styles from kinesthetic or tactile learners — who understand best through movement — to auditory learners — who benefit most from listening and talking things through. Visual learners benefit from the opportunity to watch others create, and social learners’ knowledge is most strengthened through time spent in small group discussions.

No matter what types of learners fill your classroom, research shows that hands-on learning keeps students engaged, focused, and helps them to retain more information.

“Kids learn through all their senses,” explains Ben Mardell, PhD, a researcher with Project Zero at Harvard University, in a Scholastic article. “They like to touch and manipulate things.”

Engaging in more hands-on projects — combining activities that require movement, talking, and listening — activates several different parts of the brain. “The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information,” says Judy Dodge, author of 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom (Scholastic, 2009).

“If you’re only listening, you’re only activating one part of the brain,” says Dodge, “but if you’re drawing and explaining to a peer, then you’re making connections in the brain.”

A recent three-part series on NPR followed a school in Maryland and their educational journey through one hands-on learning exercise.

Michael Guarraia, a middle school science teacher started an after-school program called Kinetic Club, where he and two-dozen students spent the school year building one giant, human-powered, kinetic sculpture — “a giant piece of art that contains movement within it,” as explained by Guarraia. “It can be powered by people only — no motors allowed — so the designers have to get really creative.”

The goal: To compete in the Kinetic Sculpture Race, a 15-mile obstacle course around Baltimore Harbor.

The idea started a few years back when Guarraia saw the race and decided it would be a great opportunity to use project-based learning to teach students math, science, art, and engineering concepts.

And it did more than just teach those concepts. It provided students with essential problem-solving skills, a form of self-expression, and taught them the strength that can be found in working with a team.

To follow these students’ experiences from day one to race day and see what lessons they learned through this engaging, hands-on, challenge, check out the video below, and parts one, two and three of the NPR series.

William Woods bachelors in education students will take courses such as Integrated Curriculum I and II, where they will learn the strategies, teaching methods and resources to plan and develop effective curriculum plans in a variety of subject areas. In addition, education majors can gather more tips for using hands-on, tactile learning from the Scholastic article mentioned above.

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