Importance of active learning – Part 2

In this second part of understanding active learning, examples are shared along with other resources for youth development in learning life skills.

Importance of active learning – Part 1” helped to understand active learning in youth development. In this second part, examples are given for youth development specialists to continue teaching abstract life skills such as communication, decision-making, problem-solving and much more.

As stated in “Activities That Teach” by Tom Jackson, people who are involved in their own learning process will understand more and remember the information. Before we share an activity for those working with youth to try, there are a couple of important tips on leading the activity as stated by Jackson:

  • Create a physically and psychologically safe environment in which the activity can take place.
  • Establish a “freeze” command.
  • Remove students who refuse to cooperate.
  • Directions should be short and to the point.
  • If possible, demonstrate what you want students to do.
  • Be prepared for an imperfect experience.
  • As the teacher, be enthusiastic, maintain control, be the timekeeper, be flexible and watch.

In “Activities That Teach”, Jackson outlines the topic area, concept, method, time frame, materials needed, the activity and discussion questions.

Our activity, “Bridges,” teaches decision-making and problem-solving. Materials needed are a large stack of newspapers per team of five, one or two rolls of masking tape per team of five, and one large can such as grapefruit juice or beef stew (leave contents in can).

Arrange small groups of five. Each group will need to build a bridge high enough for the can to pass under it and strong enough for the can to sit on it. Students may only use newspapers and tape to build the bridge. You can supply them more if needed. Give them a time limit (usually 20 minutes) and tell them throughout the activity how much time they have left. Once time is up, the teacher will try out all the bridges.

Discussion questions will follow and as the youth answer the questions, they may relate to other types of personal experiences and what they might do in the future. Some of the questions could relate to their first reaction of the assignment, what planning went on at first, was a leader chosen, how was the building plan decided on, did everyone have input on how the bridge was built, how did your group deal with frustration and why do you think it is important to know how to work with others?

There are many types of activities listed in “Activities That Teach” to use with whomever you work with.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 impact report: “Preparing young children for success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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