Today I have spent most of the day with my family at AtBristol. For anyone who has never been here, but who has young kids, or just a lust for interactive knowledge I would highly recommend it. Their strapline is “Bringing Science to Life” and I totally agree, it does.

It is essentially an interactive science museum and the captivating part of it are the activities. You can take a photo of your shadow, make a short animated film, do a puzzle of a human body and experience what it sounds like to be in the womb. There are two floors of totally enthralling hands on stuff to meddle with at your leisure (well, you and a hundred or so other people!).

It got me thinking about the importance of activity and fun.

I think educators must have worked out long ago that standing up in front of a class and spouting information at learners, however hungry their minds might be doesn’t really work. We don’t take it in, understand it properly or process it well if we are just talked at. We need at the very least some props or pictures. One step on from this of course is actual activities. Real hands on practical doing, exercises, involvement, participation and engagement.

The idea that we learn better when we’re doing rather than just listening seems fairly obvious really. I know that I have a tendency to switch off after a while if I am just listening to a speech (depending on who the speaker is!). If I listen to an interview on the radio and I’m doing something else, somehow that gives it context and I may remember more about it. I am more likely to develop an opinion, a thought, an idea or even just a feeling for something if I have tried it out rather than just heard someone talk about it.

All sorts of people have written and developed ideas and done research around the hands on, being involved part of learning, such as David Kolb and his Experiential Learning where “active involvement” is key to learning. So we can fairly safely say that learning through doing is well recognised as something valuable.

I think that the addition of fun, makes this an even better experience. What could be more engaging than a fun, practical activity to help us to learn something new, explore ideas, develop creativity and an interest in something new? If you’re a child in Denmark, there’s even a Lego school opening apparently! I can’t think of too many children that wouldn’t think that was a great idea.

Yet somehow as adults, we maybe don’t give ourselves the opportunities to get practical and explore and learn through doing and develop our creativity. There are all sorts of time pressures and financial pressures and a whole host of other constraints that mean we don’t get fun and active, especially in our work environments. We are expected of course to have developed a good attention span and to manage to listen in meetings, and to not need to have games and toys and exercises to keep us going. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be beneficial and that they can’t be explored. It’s surely good to take our brains outside the proverbial box a bit more often, to be able to do things that focus on our motivation, our interest, our enthusiasm and our fun and active sides. There can be activities that work well with the things that we have to do, they don’t have to be seen as added extras and they should be a valued part of how we get things done.

So I am left wondering what kinds of activity you like to see introduced at your place of work to help you to learn, be more creative and stimulate the little grey cells? Answers in a post card, or in the comments box below please…….



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