Hands-On Learning Experiences in K-5

We can all remember those moments when we made a discovery - the “a-ha!” moments, and when something just clicked for us. We can often find these moments triggered through hands-on, experiential learning - exciting moments that motivate us to learn even more.

At Silicon Valley International School (INTL), experiential, hands-on learning is a core part of our curriculum. On a daily basis, we witness that when students can mentally and physically engage with their experience, they are more focused and motivated to learn. With these experiences, students are able to retain more knowledge, utilizing the information and concepts more effectively, while also internalizing their learning.

When students have the opportunity to interact with real objects, they are more likely to understand complex concepts and ideas. To teach our 1st graders how coding works, the teachers use Bee Bots, an easy to operate robot that teaches sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving - the foundations for coding. Students program steps on the Bee Bot and watch it respond to the commands. Through trial and error, the students begin to understand that coding is a series of instructions for the program to follow.

When 4th grade students prepared to present what they had learned about ancient ruins, they learned to code and build interactive posters. They experimented with the codes they had written and built programs that respond to human touch. Similarly, the students learned the basic concepts through trial and error. This process sparked engaging conversations among students, and new ideas were formed. This project was featured at our Annual Arts Night where the audience could interact with the poster and access the content that the students had produced.

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These are the experiences that the students will remember when they walk out of the classroom. They remember the moments where they made a connection, when something suddenly made sense to them, and when they finally understood a complex concept. These moments boost their confidence, thus increasing their motivation to

In addition to interacting with real objects, students are given the opportunity to interact with people in real-time. Students learn how to listen to one another and express themselves verbally. They also learn how to defuse awkward situations and resolve conflicts. As a result, they build strong relationships with their peers, creating an exciting learning environment where both mistakes and progress are celebrated.

An example of this is when our 5th grade students explored the concept of communication and influence. Teachers had students prepare skits using formal and informal speech to simulate real-life experiences. Through trying to say the same thing using different methods, the students discovered irony, sarcasm, and other forms of miscommunication. Through these exchanges, they learn how to collaborate with one another in writing dialogues while imagining the impact they have on the real world.

At INTL, learning is more than gathering information or facts. It is about putting the information together to form concepts, and through experiential learning, the students internalize the concepts and solve real-world problems. So when there is a need, a problem to be solved, they are ready to show you what they have learned. Most importantly, they walk away feeling confident, excited about learning, and they can’t wait for their next learning adventure.