I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.
~ Chinese Proverb
Over the last four decades, Rowntree Montessori Schools has consistently and conscientiously incorporated this philosophy into its programs to enhance students’ learning experiences and nurture a passion for science. Hands-on learning through experiments in the classroom have proven to be an effective and successful way of reaching out to our students and encouraging them to explore the world around them.
The absence of hands-on activities in a learning environment requires students to rely on accessing their long term memory and abstract thought, which tends to limit the learning potential in most students. When students explore and investigate by experiment, they develop their critical thinking skills as well as discover scientific concepts. These experiences will live on with students throughout their lifetime even when memories might fade.
In a hands-on science program, students are more likely to retain the information and feel more confident and successful with the results achieved from the activity. It is also likely that they will be able to relate those experiences to other learning situations in their lives. Students who struggle to focus on abstract learning tasks, or who may have behavioral issues, are more open and receptive to hands-on learning. It has also been observed that these types of students willingly participate in class and often stay on task because they have the opportunity to actively engage in the process of learning, rather than just being a passive onlooker. Learning by experimentation can also teach students values such as patience, commitment, dedication and perseverance.
For example, a few months ago, our Grade three students were studying about plant life. As part of the unit, students were given the opportunity to germinate bean seeds in the classroom. Each student caringly prepared a glass jar with wet paper towels and then placed a few bean seeds into the jar to germinate. Their task was to record their observations of the stages of germination. However, to everyone’s surprise, of the fourteen jars of seeds, only one jar showed results of germination! Needless to say, our third graders were very disappointed, but it was very refreshing to see that a large number of students were determined to re-do the experiment and persist with the task of observing and recording the process. They were not ready to give up! After much debate and discussion, the students realized that they should probably change the location of the jars. Instead of leaving the jars by a cold window which had little sunlight, they decided to leave the jars under artificial light in a warmer part of the classroom. A few days later, to their absolute joy and amazement, the bean seeds in all the jars had sprouted!
As a teacher, it was indeed rewarding to watch the excitement in each student as they carefully nurtured their bean sprouts into full grown bean plants!
There is an abundance of advantages that teachers and curriculum developers attribute to hands-on learning in science. Overall, there is a significant increase in student motivation to learn. Students develop a knack for effective communication skills. Hands-on learning fosters independent thinking and decision making based on direct evidence and experiences. Activity based learning enhances perception, positive attitudes and inventiveness. But above all, hands-on learning is undoubtedly and evidently a fun, stimulating and rewarding experience for both teachers and students! At Rowntree Montessori Schools, this is our eternal mission and perpetual goal!
By a RMS teacher
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