Although I did not realize it, I was blessed to grow up with hands-on learning as my dad and mom were practical, hands-on specialists. From a young age, I learned from them about woodworking, washing dishes, wiring, taking out the trash, plumbing, piano, painting, caring for pets, teamwork and helping the neighbour. I also learned to love God and be thankful. These are all skills/traits that have wonderfully enriched my life.
We know some of that learning today as “vocational training,” while others are part of foundational character training. Parents bear a tremendous responsibility in an increasingly challenging world, to model a healthy relationship and provide a safe, nurturing environment in which to train their children. For me, it was a wonderful childhood of hands-on discovery that helped me grow as a person in knowledge and skill, all the while fostering a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Hands-on learning is a multi-sensory approach to discovery that engages the senses and bridges connections in the brain, stimulating curiosity, interest, experience, knowledge and retention.
How does Hands on Learning work?
I was first introduced to “hands-on learning” in an educational context in 2017, as LIFE International School was opening its doors. This was a brand new approach to education that was exciting and dynamic. Creative play. Sensory bins. Learning by doing, by touching, through experience! Learning beside a teacher who was zealous for her students to learn to love learning! Our curriculum coordinator and preschool teacher were both experienced educators who implemented this model of learning at our school, and I became convinced of how effective it was – not only in the home but also in the classroom.
Hands-on learning is a multi-sensory approach to discovery that engages the senses and bridges connections in the brain, stimulating curiosity, interest, experience, knowledge and retention. Not to mention a boatload of fun! It appeals to the interests of children and adults, although the form and content of learning will be different for different ages. Sometimes it takes lots of work and patience (as when my mother was teaching me piano, and I had to practice for hours); sometimes it was so much fun that the time passed without notice.
I have learned four key take-aways from my experience with hands-on learning.
Hands-on learning stimulated within me a strong sense of curiosity, and curiosity stimulates learning. When I was curious about something, it made me want to discover the who, what, why, how, when, and where. Curiosity stimulated a desire to ask questions.
Hands-on learning also made me learn to ask questions – critical questions for information and for discovery. How do things work? How can they be fixed if they are broken? Where did that decision take place? How could I say that better? What could I have done differently in that situation? Who would need to know? Using questions, I can direct a conversation and learn a tremendous amount about people, places and things. Even today I still ask questions, so many that I have earned the nickname in Spain as “el preguntón.”
Hands-on learning is also much about observation, which is a skill that benefits both the detailed person and the big-picture thinker. Careful observation helps one become informed and show interest in the other person or situation. I learned to observe and take stock of a situation or of a relationship before offering my opinion. Observation helped me to learn to look and listen before speaking. Details and non-verbals communicate much, and the careful observer will learn much through observation.
Creativity and Problem-solving
Hands-on learning helps stimulate creativity! Exploring with the senses gives a platform for creating things, scenarios, and projects. Through a multi-sensory approach to discovery and learning, I learned to create, refine, improve, and try to find solutions to problems. Most inventions and creations are expressions of creativity and problem-solving.
How do we teach Hands on Learning at LIFE?
At LIFE, we offer an approach to education that engages the senses and provides opportunities for our students to grow in their curiosity and creativity. Multi-sensory approach to education – far beyond worksheets and lectures and exams- is what we believe in. Our goal is for students to learn to observe and ask questions as critical thinkers. Providing ample opportunity for them to express themselves and learn to appreciate the expressions of others. We give collaborative opportunities to help students learn to work together and find solutions. We are committed to small class sizes, individualized instruction and support. Because each child is unique and we want to help each one to achieve their maximum potential.
Is a method that helps children in their self-esteem and knowledge
We show that learning and discovery are fun; an open door enriching our lives for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. All of this fosters a wonderful sense of accomplishment and encourages a healthy sense of self-esteem.
I invite you to come visit us at LIFE and see for yourself. I think that you too will be amazed by the multi-sensory approach to education that helps define the culture of LIFE International School.
Director of LIFE International School. Educator with over 20 years of experience in international American schools. Scot has a Master’s in Education, a Master in Christian Education, and is currently completing his doctorate in Educational Leadership.