Why is Hands-On Learning so Important?

Brittany Heigley: Agriscience Intern

What do you think agriscience education courses are best known for? Some people may say they are known for the hands-on learning experiences that they provide for students. But why is hands-on learning so significant to these students? Below are a few reasons for why hands-on learning is so important, along with some helpful links to lesson plans to help incorporate hands-on learning into your classroom!

  1. What is hands-on learning?

Hands-on learning is described as knowledge students gain when they are actively engaged in the subject that they are learning, rather than receiving the information through lectures and books.

An example of a way to do this is to give students a lesson about small engines. I remember when I was in high school my ag teacher taught my class about small engines by having us take apart and rebuild a lawnmower engine. This taught us how all of the parts worked as well as allowed us to see firsthand what each part looked like. Having that hands-on experience helped me retain so much more information about small engines, rather than if I had learned that information through lecture alone. This hands-on lesson on small engines was so beneficial to me that I am planning to use this lesson in my future classrooms.

 

For any teacher wanting to teach a hands-on small engines lesson, here is a link from the NAAE website for lesson plans designed around the Briggs and Stratton curriculum to help get you started!

  1. Hands-on learning can help students prepare to enter their future careers

 

There are thousands of job openings in the skilled trades industry. What do you think a reason for this is? One possible reason is that high school age students may not see a purpose in learning the skills needed for these jobs. With this possible reason in mind, educators can show these students the importance and practicality of these skills. Then educators could communicate the various quality job opportunities that would come along with knowing these skills.

I recently had the opportunity to observe a meeting with professionals in the construction industry. Within this meeting, those professionals were able to share what skills they preferred in entry-level workers. These suggestions will be passed on to teachers in the career tech field so that students can learn these skills while still in high school. By having these hands-on experiences in high school, the students entering the construction industry will feel more prepared than a student who may not have had hands-on learning opportunities.

 

There are many resources on the NAAE website to help teach these skills for the construction industry, here is one on electricity to help get you started!

  1. Hands-on learning encourages critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills

Most jobs involve working in groups on various projects, finding creative solutions to problems and critical thinking. Hands-on learning promotes all of these skills.

Through hands-on learning activities, students can work in groups to learn teamwork skills and find creative solutions to problems. For example, for a project, some ag teachers put their students into pairs and give them an agricultural myth to debunk. They must do this in the form of a research project as well as create an effective way to educate the public on the findings of their research project. By doing this, the students are actively engaged in what they are learning about, they are working together as a team, and they are thinking about creative ways to debunk the myth they are given.

Here is a list of ten popular controversial agricultural topics that students can use for this project.

  1. Hands-on learning benefits both teachers and students

While hands-on learning is great for students it can also be beneficial for teachers as well. Instead of standing in front of the classroom lecturing the entire class period trying to retain students’ attention, a teacher could plan an interactive lesson that is student driven. While the students work on their interactive lessons, the teachers’ job would be to walk around and ask more in-depth questions to get the students to think more critically about the subject. This helps keep student attention on the lesson being taught as well as makes the educators day a little easier to plan and facilitate!

For some hands-on lesson planning idea,you can visit the Ohio FFA website here. This link also contains various helpful resources for Agriscience Education teachers!

  1. Hands-on learning can be fun! 

If you ask students if they would rather sit in the classroom and listen to a lecture about different types of trees and leaf identification or if they would like to go outside and explore these things in person, which do you think the students would prefer? Most students would more than likely choose the interactive option due to the change of scenery and the abnormality of the lesson. To a student doing that would always be better than sitting in a classroom all day listening to one person lecture. Through hands-on learning students can be up, moving around and interacting directly with what they are learning about.

To help give you a lesson idea for leaf identification, here is a lesson plan focusing on tree/leaf identification!

Many Ag Ed classrooms use these interactive lessons to engage their students in what they are learning. Some of the projects I had the opportunity to take part in during high school include putting together electric boards, taking apart and rebuilding small engines, and making my own saw horses!

These are just some of the reasons why hands-on learning is so important. Hands-on learning engages students in what they are being taught which helps them retain the information better than if it were taught in a lecture-based teaching. Agriscience Education courses are known to incorporate a lot of hands-on learning lessons. This is just one of the many ways that Agriscience Education provides students with a pathway for career success.