Learning & Real Experiences
Kathryn L. Stout, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Published: September 1997
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Don't let the routine of the school day lull you into a false sense of security. Finishing workbooks may keep the kids occupied, but real experiences are a necessary part of learning and should remain high on your list of priorities.
WHY? To understand what they read and hear, kids need to be able to make a mental picture. Facts alone become meaningless because they have no frame of reference. Experience allows them a greater depth of understanding, and, therefore, results in longer retention. (Not to mention, it's fun!)
HOW? There are a wide variety of ways to provide experiences, many of which are very inexpensive. If you follow my rule of covering several academic objectives with one activity, you will find the time to "do" and still progress scholastically. Check your newspapers, libraries, department of parks and recreation, and tour centers for listings of opportunities in your area. Call businesses directly for information regarding tours of their facilities.
Field trips: historic sites; museums of art, history, and science; tour work places: dairy farm, bakery, butcher shop, post office, fire station, auto plant, newspaper plant.
Events: live performances: plays, operas, musicals, concerts; historical re-enactments including a Renaissance Fair and Medieval Times (re-enactments of knights in battle); rodeos; ice capades; sporting events.
Camps: day or overnight camps are usually scheduled in the summers. Look at the types available, since some require registration as early as February. There are history, language, music and sport camps, as well as those offering more traditional outdoor scouting type experiences.
Restaurants: Choose a restaurant decorated in keeping with the type of food it serves: French, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Greek, German, and so on.
Movies/Videos: historical fiction provides a sense of living in another culture and time period; nonfiction videos can make the viewer feel as if he is seeing a live demonstration or taking a tour. The A&E channel has had a series on historic homes which will probably be repeated.
At Home students can: maintain an individual garden; listen to a variety of types of music; listen to good books on tape; participate in a variety of art activities; camp in the back yard.
PREPARATION: Students will gain more from an experience if they have heard or read some background information first. Give young children specific things to look for or questions to find answers to in order to help direct their thinking during the experience.
FOLLOW UP CHOICES: discussion; composition/speech or presentation; imitation (put on a play or concert, make a display area as a small museum, camp in the back yard). Allow time to find answers to questions that have come to mind during the experience. Use resources on hand (books, software), or take everyone to the library to find the answers and follow up at home with time for each one to share their discoveries.