If you ask one of our Early Childhood students what they did at school today, they could answer that they observed how a real-life crane works, what types of grasses are around our campus, how they filled up a cup with water using eye droppers, and how they formed the letter Q using wood sticks, Wiki Sticks, and dot paints. These are just a few examples of how our youngest students are learning by doing. It is essential at the preschool age for children to be active participants in their learning, not passive observers. When children have an active role in their learning activities, the result is a crucial difference in the retention level and degree of interest that will affect the positive outcome of curriculum goals. For example, when the pre-k classes are learning about the letter L, a variety of activities are planned that provide physical learning opportunities. The children walk around campus, collect Leaves, and look at the elements of the Leaves on the Light table; they write Letters to the Lunchroom staff; they build the London Bridge with Legos; and they journal about an object they think of that starts with the letter L. These interactive activities support the goal of learning about the letter L and are tangible, relevant, and rewarding for the students. It is also beneficial that they make a connection between lesson goals through real life experiences, as they learn by doing.
This type of hands-on learning is a natural way of learning and is a way of fostering skills in discovery, wondering, and curiosity. This produces children who are strengthening critical thinking and problem solving skills. Instead of the teacher telling the students exactly what to do or providing step-by-step instructions about the hands-on activities, students should be provided opportunities to explore materials, engage and collaborate with others, and create their own outcome. Our three-year-olds go on a scavenger hunt to collect sticks, twigs, leaves, grass, rocks, and more in their own Ziploc, with the simple instruction to collect things to build their own nest. When they return to the classroom, they build their nests out of the materials they have collected and name what kind of animal, they think, would live in their nest. At the end of the activity, they have learned concepts in content areas of science, social studies, literacy, and art, along with being able to apply the learning to life-like experiences.
Learning by doing provides effective and enjoyable experiences for our early childhood students and fosters lessons of real value in the real world. We find our students are more engaged in learning, which increases positive behavior. Another benefit of interactive activities is that they facilitate an increase in interaction between peers and teachers, as well as create enriching vocabulary and language. We have the privilege of spending our days with children who are eager to learn, are inquisitive, and want to explore. Allowing our students to be active participants in their learning opens countless opportunities to grow socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually and get to know the environment, community, and the real world around them.