Instilling lifelong learning

March 24, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

I heard someone say that they don’t necessarily think that learning should be made fun for children in school. “Kids need to know that not everything that we do in life is enjoyable.”

That certainly may be true. Not everything we do is fun, but we make even the most mundane tasks more enjoyable by the attitude we have while participating in them.

Washing dishes isn’t the most wonderful job,, but it needs to get done. How about listening to some music while we perform these tasks?

When my children have to do certain tasks, I may hear, “but that’s not fun.” Sometimes my challenge is to make it fun.

The better the attitude and the addition of some variety or creativity, the less mundane the task. Cleaning the dog kennels is not so much fun, but I can sing, hum, or pretend I am engaging in some archaeological dig (now that’s being creative!)

I think incorporating fun into learning is vital. Children as well as adults should know, and grow up knowing that learning can be fun and exciting. When there is a passion and excitement involved, students are more likely to be more involved and engaged in the learning process.

Research has shown that the best learning occurs in a stimulating, active, interesting, and engaging environment. If we are having fun, more parts of our brain are stimulated. It is like our brains say, “This is exciting, bring it in,” instead of shutting down.

The National Education Association (NEA) in an article, “Keys to School Quality, Great Public Schools for Every Child,” stated, “it is noted that curriculum and instruction are the school’s core processes that affect teaching and student learning.”

Varied, engaging, and collaborative strategies are one of the key indicators of excellence in instruction. The article noted that “cognitive theorists have demonstrated that students (and adults) learn best when they are meaningfully engaged in their own learning by exploring and manipulating information, synthesizing and explaining ideas, generating and testing hypotheses and arriving at new understanding.”

The average mind retains: 10 percent of what is read; 20 percent of what is read and heard; 30 percent of what is seen; 50 percent of what is seen and heard; 80 percent of what is seen, heard and acted upon.

A University of Minnesota mathematics educator noted in an article on classroom management that it is important to make learning more fun and attractive for the students, to make curriculum relevant, lessons interesting and activities enjoyable. Results: engaged and active participants in the learning process.

He also noted that routines can become ruts if there is not some variety to spice things up. We know that establishing routines for our children both in school and at home is important. It provides safety, and security, and children know what to expect. But we also need to remember that variety is important as well, or routines do become ruts.

I know, as an adult, in engaging in my daily routines, such as my exercise routine, I need to change things up a bit or the routine becomes too routine and boring and hence, I feel like I don’t want to do it – or at least, I don’t do it as well. We need to remember this for our children, as well.

I know, as a parent, I want my children to be lifelong learners and to enjoy and be excited about learning new things. I want them to be motivated to learn. I want my children to also engage in an occupation as adults that they enjoy so that it is more than just “work.”

I believe that if children are engaged and connected in the learning process, behavior issues will be less prevalent.

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”

– Roger Levin

“All children are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others.”

– Michael Carr