What is the hands-on learning approach?
Hands-on learning is about creating an experience where the students feel empowered to try new things and work through failure. Maharishi School alumni Sheila Higgins explains, “when the students come up with something that’s frustrating them, they need to have a dialogue about why that happened, and what they could do to experience a different result. Especially with science it’s not a matter of right and wrong, it’s always a process of discovery.”
Sheila guides her students through the process of proving that something is “wrong” or doesn’t work, which she says is just as significant as proving that something is right. There are a variety of opportunities for hands-on learning in science, it has to be something that provides them with enough structure that they understand what the objectives are. While maintaining enough freedom to think creatively, and experiment with their own ideas.
What are the Middle School kids doing in Science?
Right now the students in Sheila’s Science class are working on a solar-powered model car. The students are familiarizing with concepts of renewable energy, solar technologies, basics of what a photomotaic cell is, and basics of circuitry. Having the hands-on experience of building something from scratch gives them ownership of the whole process of learning. Sheila says, “the students interact with success and failure in an important way and persevere through challenging concepts.”
Sheila found the kits on amazon that had basic components for the cars; tiny solar panels, little engines and circuitry. The kids have to connect the positive to the negative leads and make sure everything is in place so that as soon as it gets enough sunlight, it takes off.
Sheila explains,”science is about maintaining that sense of curiosity, especially for middle school age kids. You have to get them excited about a subject. Then make them wonder how the world works and what their place is in it. As well as come up with new ideas.”
Click here to watch the solar car in action.
Click here to see Uma Wegman show the car up close.
What is the future of hands on learning in Sheila’s Science class?
I asked Sheila how she plans on applying hands-on learning to her Science classes in the future.
Sheila wants her class to be as “hands-on and as student lead as possible. That means getting
the students comfortable working collaboratively with one another.” Sheila sets up groups
of students to coherently solve problems that use scientific principles. If you were to spy on Sheila’s classroom you would see kids building, experimenting, and putting learning in the context of reality rather than textbooks.
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