Mimio Educator

Why Hands-On Experiments Are Important

Posted by Denise Scribner on Tue, Mar 7, 2017

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 “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”  - Aristotle


As teachers, we know our students learn in many different ways: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and social. But most of us teach the way we're most comfortable—and that's not necessarily the way our students learn. It's a missed opportunity if we don't use the way that a student learns best to hook them and get them excited about learning.

Hands-on projects engage kids who are tactile or kinesthetic learners—those who need movement to be involved in order to learn best. However, they also engage students who are auditory learners that like to talk about what they're doing, as well as visual learners that want the opportunity to see what everyone else is creating. For social learners, the time spent in small group conversation will strengthen their content knowledge, communication skills, and confidence.

Hands-on experiences also allow students to experiment with trial and error, learn from their mistakes, and understand the potential gaps between theory and practice. As a bonus, hands-on experiences also provide educators with a unique opportunity to enrich the minds of their students in new and engaging ways. 

Some ways I use hands-on active learning are: 

  1. Solving mysteries, puzzles, and riddles makes learning fun while involving students in active learning. You can find lesson ideas at sites like MysteryNet and the Kids Environment area of the National Institute of Health.

  2. Use a timer when doing in-class work. Students who know they are “under the clock” will focus better.

  3. I like to use props and, yes, even costumes to bring home a point and engage my students. During a recent pollinator unit, I donned a bumblebee costume—complete with wings and stinger—as I presented the material. Just doing something out of the ordinary will help the students remember. Another time, we put on the chemistry goggles and then turned our chairs upside down to sit upon them in a different way using the legs as our “airplane” controls to do a “birds-eye view” of what we would see when flying over a deforested habitat. Students shared as they “flew” over each different type of site.

  4. Have students associate body motions with the material—I routinely do the chromosome two-step and do-si-do when talking about crossing over and mitosis.

  5. Have the students create a song, rap, or series of jingles to document what they have learned during the past unit rather than taking a written quiz or short test.

  6. Use color when displaying items in PowerPoint presentations and/or the classroom whiteboard.

  7. Create mnemonic devices.

 

Hands-on learning doesn’t just mean doing labs or cut-and-paste projects—it can also involve engaging students using the support items offered by Mimio, including:

  • Using classroom response technology like the MimioVote assessment system. The results are immediate and the feedback has value.

  • The MimioMobile app, which helps students through the digital facilitation of collaboration.

  • Interactive projectors that allow students to actually touch, draw, write, move, scale, and rotate projected images in your classroom. If you're only listening, you're only activating one part of the brain, but if you're drawing and explaining to a peer, then you're making connections in the brain. What an awesome way to take a static presentation and make it interactive!

  • The Labdisc portable STEM lab makes inquiry-based learning easy by putting science experiments in the palm of a student’s hand. It’s also the center of Boxlight’s STEM Day, which brings the Labdisc to participating schools so they can perform simultaneous experiments and share the data. The first STEM Day was on December 9, 2016, and there are three more in 2017 on February 15, April 5, and May 17.

Remember, hands-on activities are just one component that will help improve students’ learning. You need to couple this with active learning to help students become more effective and efficient learners, which will in turn help them accurately remember the information they learn. Become familiar with a few active learning techniques—some that are easier to implement are the "one-minute paper" and "think-pair-share."

Finally, when you are implementing active learning techniques in your hands-on activities, follow these general steps:

  • Use activities to draw attention to issues and content you feel are most critical.

  • Establish rules of conduct to encourage appropriate student participation.

  • Stop the activity and debrief often. Call on a few students or groups of students to share their thoughts and tie them in with the next steps as you transition to a new topic during a classroom lecture.

  • Introduce the activity and explain the learning benefit—in other words, the “why” we are learning this.

  • Control the time cost by giving students a time limit to complete the task.

Make a New Year’s resolution to change up and rethink at least 1, 2, or even 3 lessons so that they become hands-on and/or inquiry-based experiences. Yes, it may take a little more time in the classroom, but the results will be well worth it!

Want to learn more about our hands-on portalbe STEM Lab? Learn more about Labdisc now.>>

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PORTABLE STEM LAB

Topics: Science Lessons, STEM Lessons, 21st Century Skills, Labdisc, STEM

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