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Busy hands = busy brains!
by Sarah W
There are countless studies looking at different ways of learning - covering all sorts of areas such as rote learning, kinesthetic (hands-on) learning, visual and auditory learning. Most people have a preferred style - for example they can only retain information through repetition, or must see it as a visual image rather than in writing to remember it. For young children however, it is often the case that a hands-on method of learning is more effective, as their little brains are developing as their motor skills develop.
We've decided to test this in practice, using a Science@Home activity provided by Experimentary.
Our guinea pigs for this experiment are Heidi (grade 2 level) and Hamish (prep level). They are going to conduct an activity where they build a wind gauge, and then use it to measure wind speed.
The first step is to watch a quick how to video - it's only four minutes long (about the same length as an episode of Bluey - their favourite cartoon). By watching the video, they get a visual sense of what they will be doing and
After watching the video, Mum asked them to summarise in their own words what they think the activity is about, how they will do it, and what they will be measuring. Both did a pretty good job of processing the information they'd seen and heard and regurgitating it back in their own words.
Now on to the fun bit. A multitude of studies have shown that students who can engage in a practical, hands-on environment are often more engaged and stimulated, and generally more enthusiastic about the learning process. They are more likely to pay attention, and to feel empowered to take charge of the activity themselves. In this case, Heidi and Hamish inadvertently used all sorts of additional skills to complete the activity - such as fine motor skills (using scissors and a stapler) and mathematics (measuring with a ruler).
Once they'd built their wind gauges, it was time to apply the science aspect of the activity by measuring and recording wind speeds. There is a bit of maths behind this (which Mum had to double-check too!) but because they could work through the problem step by step, both kids managed to measure their wind gauge, time its rotation, and then covert that into a km/hour wind speed. They were then let loose to try their wind gauges in different spots - in the backyard, by blowing on it and next to the fan (tricky calculating the wind speed when it was going that fast!!).
This was followed up with a discussion about wind in general - windmills and wind turbines, hurricanes and cyclones, and how wind seems like it sometimes "whistles" - all sorts of real-life examples that helped to reinforce the concepts presented in the activity. By the end of it, not only had they had a great time, but they'd created something with their hands, tested it, recorded the results, and applied the knowledge to real-life situations. In this case, hands-on learning seemed a whole lot more interesting (and effective) than just reading about it in a book.
Experimentary is a subscription-based science website for primary-school aged children. It has a series of shorter Science@Home activities and longer experiments, covering a range of science principles. Most can be completed with materials found around the house, and all are clearly explained with short videos. Free trials are available and annual subscriptions are under $20/child.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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