Originally Sent: 11/7/2013
November 7, 2013
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What is hands-on education?
You will hear various terms used for this type of education, including project-based learning, experiential learning, cooperative learning, service learning, environmental education, active learning, and more. Simply stated, they all mean engaging the student in active roles to acquire information.
Without realizing it, your teens will develop mental skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. These will be attained through interactive discussions with you or other instructors. (In the process they also hone conversation skills.) Moms and dads, you can be involved in these activities as you learn right alongside your teens, adding your insight and life experience to the learning process.
Why use hands-on education?
Not all teens (or adults) learn the same way. Some are engaged more readily if they can see or handle what the curriculum is teaching. However, even if teens love textbooks and workbooks, adding some visual or auditory assignments can broaden their understanding.
In addition, educators have found that “active” learning has many benefits. It develops more in-depth understanding of the subject. Participating in the re-enactment of an historical event can personalize it and cause the teen to question how she would have reacted at that time or how history affects her in practical ways today.
Hands-on learning can lead to an interest in one subject that complements another he’s currently studying. Through studying music theory, your teen may better understand and enjoy math, leading him to pursue that subject to a greater degree. For example, he will soon realize that building octaves will require knowledge of ratios (musical fifth is 2:3, fourth 2:4 and so on). As he progresses in music, he’ll find practical applications of algebra and geometry for sound, harmony, and music composition.
Project-based education can increase motivation, focus, and fun for learning. Think how much more interested your teen will be in studying physical science if he experiments with levers and builds ramps, using them to develop hypotheses; or experiments with growing vegetables in pots versus raised beds.
Many teens today are interested in changing the world, or at least where they live. Putting knowledge into action and solving problems creatively may lead them to achieve that goal. Mike Farris’ daughter took a mission trip to Romania as a teen to work in a Christian orphanage. She returned home full of ideas of how to help finance a larger facility to care for more children and eventually transition them from orphanages into loving homes. Today she oversees her ministry, Romania Reborn, and rejoices at the difference it is making in the lives of others.
Another benefit is that teens often develop caring attitudes. This can be fostered through volunteer or community service projects. When your teens use their gifts to serve others, their hearts are stirred with compassion. You can read our past newsletters, “Bringing the World into Your Home & School,”, and “Expanding Your Homeschool into Your Community,” for ideas to implement.
How can I get started?
First of all, recognize that teens will integrate such learning to different degrees and be attracted to different methods. Some teens will use prose, poetry, music composition, or filmmaking to delve deeper into English, history or the arts. Other teens may want to raise animals while studying science. Still others will enjoy using the kitchen to cement math facts.
You will also want to provide a framework for your teens to hang the knowledge they glean in order to maximize retention of what they discover. For example, if you were given Christmas ornaments but you had never seen a Christmas tree, you would not know what to do with them! The ornaments would be left scattered around the house until you connected them with decorating the Christmas tree. In the same way, giving a plan or skeleton to your teen at the beginning of a suggested project or assignment will provide much needed direction. It can be as simple as posing a question in a particular context for the student to explore and answer. As he researches, he’ll know what will be useful information and what doesn’t apply.
Can you give me some concrete suggestions and resources?
Discovering enriching experiences you can easily incorporate into the subjects you are teaching doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. Journaling as part of a writing or English course will give teens the practice of putting down their thoughts on paper. This can also be used in conjunction with other hands-on learning such as recording their impressions from field trips or travel. Or, if your teen is studying current events as an elective, she could write a script that shows her understanding of such events, and then present it to an audience much like a news anchor.
Your teen may enjoy learning directly from participating in an experience or project that has continuity, is interactive, and provides time for reflection such as an archeological dig. Too inaccessible? Internships, can give teens similar opportunities to explore possible careers or majors in college while observing a day in the life of a welder, architect, plumber, nurse, editor, or—.
The individual subject curriculum section of HSLDA’s high school website offers additional possibilities. There are options for students interested in computer programming to work with programmers in the marketplace, for budding politicians to participate in national, state, or local campaigns as part of a civics course, and for future investors to explore managing a virtual portfolio—these are but a few of the opportunities.
Regardless of the curriculum you are using, introducing hands-on assignments can add interest and fun to an otherwise “dry” course (from your teen’s point of view). One day you may be surprised to find that “dry” course to be the focus of your teen’s major of study or career!
If you are an HSLDA member and wish to liven up your teens’ program this year, but lack for ideas or can’t find resources, please contact us by phone (540) 338-5600) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Not a member? Please consider joining; it’s as easy as a click of a mouse.
Look for our next newsletter to bring some Christmas cheer.
With thankful hearts,
Becky Cooke & Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants
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