It’s not a typical sight to see leaders from multiple countries meet in a high school classroom, but that’s exactly what can be found in history teacher Brad Anderson’s classroom at a certain time in the school year.
Rather than constantly taking notes and filling their time with busy work, Anderson students use their class time to gain real-life experience through activities such as Age of Empires and the World Diplomacy Game.
“I want to make sure that students are not only in school for the content, but also for the fun,” Anderson said. “You can have an adventure and learn at the same time; you can enjoy the learning process through teamwork, through adventure, [and] through hands-on learning.
No matter how dedicated each of these projects and experiences was, Anderson is aware that high school is only a brief snippet of his entire life, and that very few of the many moments will be remembered for years to come.
This may seem daunting to some, but it makes Anderson all the more determined to make high school education worthwhile. The more exciting the activities, the more likely the student is to remember them.
“You only remember a few things,” Anderson said. “I want to help students create memories through these hands-on, hands-on learning experiences. You will remember it. You will remember how you feel, you will prepare differently, [and] you will be more enthusiastic and engaged.
Anderson isn’t the only teacher at FHC who teaches valuable lessons through non-traditional methods. Science teacher Chad Scholten has introduced hands-on learning into many of the classes he teaches.
Science certainly requires a different style of teaching than history and social studies classes, but it’s definitely possible to teach in an engaging way. This can be done through models, labs, and other hands-on experiences. Scholten implemented some of these concepts in his anatomy class where students constructed a clay model, including the muscles and organs of a human being.
“You can learn anatomy just by looking at diagrams in textbooks,” Scholten said. “But, when you can make it three-dimensional and you can see it in space, then you use your sense visualization more. So students generally do better if I can have some type of performance-based or lab-based test—in effect, do something—rather than a multiple-choice test.
So students generally do better if I can have some type of performance-based or lab-based test—in effect, do something—rather than a multiple-choice test.
Scholten teaches under this policy whenever possible in her classroom. He even has a button – from the same company that creates the supplies for the models – that sums up his thoughts: “The mind cannot forget what the hands have learned.”
His work on hands-on science learning doesn’t stop there. Scholten also conducts an independent study during his sixth hour which, although still on school grounds, is not in his classroom. Scholten students take what they have learned in their environmental science lessons to the greenhouse.
“They learn the concept in the classroom,” Scholten said. “Then, with the greenhouse, they plant the seeds, fertilize the plants, [doing] certain crops and maintenance in terms of insects and pests. We have to face this.
Although most teachers have the ability to create lessons that involve hands-on learning, art teacher Grace Stynes should always teach in this way. Even if it’s difficult, it’s the only way to teach art classes.
Luckily, Stynes likes to work that way and can’t imagine teaching his students any other way. Because Stynes has to work that way and can do it with passion, it’s clear that such learning isn’t impossible to implement in a classroom setting.
“When we move our body in this hands-on art way, the brain activates in areas that you might not get if you’re just sitting, writing, and thinking about memorization,” Stynes said. “So it’s really important to have your body moving in order to help your learning.”
Even though the art is almost strictly practical, there is room for improvement and more creativity – Stynes recognizes this and works hard to ensure that learning is the best it can be for all students. By turning the conversation around and allowing students to experiment for themselves, Stynes enables students to understand concepts in a way that makes sense to them.
These forms of teaching should be a model for classrooms around the world. FHC, so far, has shown many examples of how students can learn with methods that are above conventional methods, but like everywhere else, more can be done.
“There are a lot of great examples of what’s happening at FHC,” Stynes said. “But, I’m in the way that there can always be more; as teachers, that’s the mindset that most people have. We also learn, so I always try to make things more practical.