Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sticky Learning

The most concrete way we can experience the world is through our five senses:  sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. 
"Five Senses"
In fact, the more of our senses that are intentionally or unintentionally involved in an experience the more profound our memory.  To prove my point, think back on a poignant childhood memory—the one that is still very vivid in your mind.  What about that event made it so memorable?  What were the images, the noises, the aromas, the sensations, and the savor?  How did the experience make you feel?  Sir Ken Robinson reminds us that aesthetic experiences are ones that we experience fully and my guess is that the experience you recall was an aesthetic experience. 

So the question becomes, how do we help youth have learning experiences that require them to use as many of the five sense as possible?  Certainly if we embrace the LIAS (Learning in Afterschool and Summer) principles—learning that is active, collaborative, meaningful, supports mastery, and broadens horizons—we have a formula for creating learning opportunities that will be memorable for youth.  As you are planning your enrichment activities have these five principles serve as a checklist and be sure to consider them in the plan. 
Another quick litmus test is to ask yourself about the level of involvement for each youth in the activities you are planning.  If you have youth involved in partner work, you can be sure that at least 50% of the time both youth are involved.  Small team work with 3-4 students reduces the percentage of involvement.  Our goal should be to set up our activities to ensure that youth are actively engaged.  This means that while we may demonstrate a portion of the activity, we understand that engagement is not a spectator sport—youth must be actively involved in the learning.  The more intentional we are in planning our learning opportunities, including debriefing the experience, the more we can ensure that the learning will stick.

What are the things that you are doing to make learning sticky?  What are the best practices that are making a difference?

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