Learn by doing, activity method, project method, inquiry method, play way education….call it by any name but hands on learning is required if we want education to be lifelong; otherwise it fades away or becomes rote learning.
In the preschool years, the brain is developing. In fact 98% of your brain growth happens in the first 6 years and so it is crucial that children at this age are exposed to hands on –activity based learning environments. That’s exactly what we do at Podar Jumbo Kids.
Every educationist and educational philosopher has advocated the need for hands on activity based learning, be it our own Mahatma Gandhi who devised the 3 H method- Hand, Heart and Head education or good old Montessori who believed that learning involves 3 things, the Muscles, the Senses and the Brain.
Recent brain research has shown that-
· The hand and the brain need each other- Neurologically, "a hand is always in search of a brain and a brain is in search of a hand," as Wilson likes to say.
· Use of the hands to manipulate three-dimensional objects is an essential part of brain development.
· All over the world, kids play with blocks, push around toys, throw balls; this is constantly fertilizing neural growth.
· Einstein knew the value of play all along when he said,"... Play seems to be the essential feature in productive scientific thought—before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs 'that can be communicated to others." Play is the key to nurturing happy, intelligent children.
So what is activity based learning or hands on learning? Simply put, it should involve as many senses as possible; it should involve 3 learning styles - Looker, Listener and Mover. So let’s take a simple example: It is the rainy season, so we want to teach kids about snails. A simple way to do it would be to show them pictures of snails and tell them about the features of a snail. Or you can choose to do it in the hands on activity format, in which you hide a puppet of a snail in the classroom and plan that children find it, then start a discussion about who can identify its name, then show them a small video about a snail and then take them to a garden to actually look for snails.
Similar with reading activities, either a school can make it a drill activity and make children repeat and read words after the teacher or one can make it more interesting by playing a passing the parcel game, with words in the parcel and each child to pick up a word and read it.
Our Senior Kindergarten children are able to learn about odd and even numbers with a simple activity- Teacher gives them buttons for each number and children place the buttons in pairs; so if a button does not have a pair then that number is an odd number. So simple, but so hands on that the learning goes straight to the brain.
That’s exactly what educationists are emphasizing; that any learning that happens through the use of our senses and muscles will have better retention.
Many others argue that this is a waste of time and just play, to which Dr. Stuart Brown writes in his path breaking book- ‘Play’-
“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy! An oft heard comment but recently research shows that there is much truth in this simple saying. Dr. Stuart Brown says in his book ‘Play’ that people in jobs are not able to find solutions to problems or make new discoveries or survive a crisis efficiently all because they have lost touch with play in their lives or were brought up in a ‘play less’ environment. He says that “Those who had worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to “see solutions" that those who hadn't worked with their hands could not. They couldn’t' spot the key flaw in complex systems they were working on, toss the problem around, break it down, pick it apart, tease out its critical elements, and rearrange them in innovative ways that led to a solution.”
Many different styles of activity based learning can be practiced in the early childhood years. One can link a favorite story like Goldilocks and the 3 bears to many learning concepts like through the story teacher can teach about-
The number 3
About sizes- big, medium and small
About hot and cold (the soup)
About neat and tidy (the beds of the bears)
About parts of a house
And teacher can add a value to her teaching by ending the story with a discussion on good manners- ‘What 3 words should Goldilocks have used?’ (thank-you, please and sorry)
So the idea of activity based learning is to use educational maxims like-
Known to unknown (so using a story or nursery rhyme to teach new concepts)
Concrete to abstract (using hands on objects to teach about abstract concepts)
Simple to complex (using simple every day fun, games and toys to teach complex stuff like numbers, reading etc)
So choice is ours – have activity based play and grow or practice rote learning and rot the brain cells away! Then why not play? After all play is the work of childhood!