It’s no secret that hands-on learning is a way to fully immerse students in their education. Our curriculum is built upon this, and we would like to share with you why. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the larger reasons hands-on learning is vital in education through research gathered from larger associations and organizations.
“Busy Hands, Busy Brains
As students put projects together, create crafts, or use familiar materials in new ways, they’re constructing meaning. “Kids learn through all their senses,” says Ben Mardell, PhD, a researcher with Project Zero at Harvard University, “and they like to touch and manipulate things.” But more than simply moving materials around, hands-on activities activate kids’ brains. According to Cindy Middendorf, educational consultant and author of The Scholastic Differentiated Instruction Plan Book (Scholastic, 2009), between the ages of four and seven, the right side of the brain is developing and learning comes easily through visual and spatial activities. The left hemisphere of the brain—the side that’s involved in more analytical and language skills—develops later, around ages 10 and 11.
When you combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas 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,” she says, “but if you’re drawing and explaining to a peer, then you’re making connections in the brain.”
Multitasking in the classroom is not a negative when it comes to hands-on activities such as coloring, scribbling, or cutting with scissors. Indeed, even adults benefit from the “busy hands, busy brain” phenomenon: Recent research has shown that people who doodle during business meetings have better memory recall. A report in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology demonstrated that volunteers who doodled during a dull verbal message were 29 percent better at recalling details from the message. Researchers suggest that engaging in a simple hands-on task, such as cutting out a shape with scissors, can help prevent daydreaming and restlessness during a learning experience. If adults in business settings can benefit from mnemonic tricks such as doodling, then students should certainly be encouraged to try these strategies.”
“Well-designed, hands-on activities in the classroom foster connections to real-world situations and increase learner engagement. This commingling of the classroom and the rest of life is called hands-on learning. When students make connections between the concepts in the classroom and concepts in the real world, more parts of their brains are activated, and the knowledge gained more easily transfers to long-term memory. This style of teaching and learning also fosters the growth of critical thinking and problem solving skills – skills that many employers say they view as high priorities in new hires. Another perk to hands-on learning is that it makes both teaching and learning fun again. School time is not simply a time to “buckle down” and “do work” but an extension of the full lives that your kids are already living.”
The study, published online April 24 in Psychological Science, comes from the Department of Psychology’s Human Performance Lab, directed by Prof. Sian Beilock, an internationally known expert on the mind–body connection and author of the book How the Body Knows Its Mind.
For Beilock, the findings stressed the importance of classroom practices that physically engage students in the learning process, especially for math and science.
“In many situations, when we allow our bodies to become part of the learning process, we understand better,” Beilock said. “Reading about a concept in a textbook or even seeing a demonstration in class is not the same as physically experiencing what you are learning about. We need to rethink how we are teaching math and science because our actions matter for how and what we learn.”
With all of this being said, if you focus on hands-on learning, why do you do this? What are some of the reasons behind why you choose a tactile learning environment? Share in the comments below or on our Facebook page!