This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 1 Enrichment and Education Upside-Down Teaching for Optimal Learning Liz Uelmen 4/10/2011
This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 2 Education and Enrichment: Upside-Down Teaching for Optimal Learning Sports, music and the other arts, and hobbies like crafts and woodworkingare considered by most to be beneficial and desirable for children to experience;however, the potential for these activities to serve as instruments of formaleducation has been largely overlooked. Decades of research into effectiveeducational practices have consistently revealed several important elements whichcontribute to optimal learning, and enrichment activities contain these elements.According to learning expert Lloyd Reiber, humans learn best when they believethat what they are learning is valuable to them; furthermore, when a learningexperience is fun and engaging, it is more successful (1996, p. 12). People find thehighest degree of satisfaction when engaged in learning about what "…they enjoy(and) find important" (Archambault, Eccles, & Vida, 2010). The very nature ofenrichment activities is that they are appealing, exciting and interesting; and peoplewho engage in them tend to want to know more about them. This makesenrichment activities perfect vehicles for learning. A few examples will give some idea of the potential for fun activities toprovide meaningful learning in the academic disciplines. In practice, one simplyanalyses the processes involved in an activity, looking for the ways in which thoseprocesses are related to, and involve the same content as, the subjects taught inschool. Once there is an awareness of this practice, and a desire to find ways toapply it, the possibilities become endless. Youth who enjoy sports can improve their skills by understanding themathematical and scientific principles behind them. The relationship of sports to
This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 3math and science has inspired dozens if not hundreds of educational resources,including Cameron Bauers 2008 breakthrough textbook Algebra for Athletes, andthe San Francisco Exploratoriums exhibit on the science of baseball. Games ingeneral and even simple recreational play can be viewed as an educationalenrichment activity, too. Play science expert Dr. Stuart Brown says this about thepower of playing: "It shapes the brain…it fosters empathy and makes possiblecomplex social groups…play lies at the core of creativity and innovation" (Brown& Vaughn, 2009, p. 5). Psychology lecturer and teacher educator Susan Engelclaims that play helps people "…acquire higher-order thinking skills, likegenerating testable hypotheses, imagining situations from someone else’sperspective and thinking of alternate solutions." (Engel, 2010). Cooking and baking, besides being practical life skills, are popular activitiesfor enrichment. Not only does baking involve the use of fractions for measuringingredients, there are many scientific processes involved in transforming theindividual ingredients into the finished product. The Science of Cooking, by PaulBarham, describes those processes in great detail (2001). Many enrichment programs focus on teaching crafts of various types. A2000 publication co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Officeof Educational Research and Improvement gives detailed descriptions of hundredsof craft activities, explaining how they relate to literature, history, science andmath. Some activities even include studies in several subject areas, as exemplifiedby the extensive quilting projects. Quilting is a craft that can encompass lessons inhistory and the language arts as well as geometry. Another group of activitiesdescribed includes building a kaleidoscope; the mathematics involved with theseactivities, "Cartesian coordinates, 2-D and 3-D geometry, measurement, symmetry,
This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 4and volume," are all extremely challenging to teach and to learn, using thetraditional instructional model (Carter, C., Cohen, S., Keyes, M., Kusino, P., &Lunsford, C., 2000. p. 9). Hands-on activities seat the higher math concepts in real-life applications, making them far more comprehensible (Reiber, 1998, p. 12). Any program that uses enrichment activities to improve academicperformance should include a major music component. Music is enjoyed byvirtually everyone, providing entertainment as well as a vehicle for expression.Music instruction is something a lot of parents choose to invest in, but the majorityare unaware of just how beneficial it can be. For example, since the notes and beatsthat make up music are expressed in fractions, lessons which use music help in theteaching of this sometimes difficult math concept (Mosher, S. & Kelly, E., 1999). Art can help to teach written expression and vocabulary (among otherthings). An art program used for teaching academic content should have an arthistory and appreciation focus as well as a creative one. A true work of art evokesthoughts and feelings; it speaks to the observer. Art appreciation involves adiscussion about what each observer feels the work is saying to them. Thechallenge of expressing feelings and esoteric concepts stretches language abilities. Since every observer brings their own perspective and preferences,discussions about art will reveal that differing opinions can be not only valid butactually interesting and meaningful. This understanding of how perceptions differ,and how they can be influenced, is important for effective communication. Tocreate a satisfying and significant work of art, the artist begins by thinking aboutwhat is important to them. Since a persons interests can provide clues about theirinner self, researching a topic in terms of its artistic possibilities encourages one tothink deeply about how the topic makes them feel and what they want to say about
This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 5it, which in turn gives them personal insight (California State Board of Education,2001). It is often necessary to learn quite a lot in order to master a sport or a craft;but the enjoyment and satisfaction gained motivates this learning, and makes itsome of the most meaningful knowledge one ever acquires. Learning-technologyadvisor Lloyd Reiber emphasizes that research bears out the importance ofembedding learning in "authentic situations", adding that activities which arechallenging enough to be stimulating, but intuitive enough to encouragepersistence (like games and artistic pursuits), are the best for learning (1996, p. 12).Enrichment activities could serve as the foundation for academic studies, instead ofbeing regarded as an expendable luxury. American students are intellectuallyimpoverished; which is the predictable result of a school system that treatsenrichment as something they can do without. The solution to making Americaneducation better is to flip it upside-down, allowing young people to explore whatthey find interesting about the world. When they are interested, then they can betruly taught.
This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 6 ReferencesArchambault, I., Eccles, J. S., & Vida, M. N. (2010). Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy: Joint Trajectories from Grades 1 through 12 (paragraph 2). Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(4), 804-816. Retrieved March 2011 from Kaplan Library ERIC.Barham, P. (2001). The science of cooking. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Bauer, C. (2008). Algebra for athletes. Hauppage, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers.Brown, S. & Vaughn, C. (2009). Play – How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul (p. 5). New York: Penguin Group.Carter, C., Cohen, S., Keyes, M., Kusino, P., & Lunsford, C. (2000). Uncommon knowledge: Projects that help middle-school-age youth discover the science and mathematics in everyday life (p. 9). Charlestown, W.V.: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. Retrieved March 2011from Kaplan Library.Engel, S. (2010, February 1). Playing to learn (op-ed.). Retrieved April 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/opinion/02engel.html?scp=1&sq=enge l%20feb%202010&st=cse
This was written by Liz Uelmen. NO RIGHTS OF COPY OR SHARE WITHOUT PERMISSION 7Mosher, S. & Kelly, E. (1999). Math, fractions, and music. Perry Central Schools. Retrieved November 2010 from http://www.p12.nysed.gov/nysatl/Math/Music/html/index.htmlCalifornia State Board of Education. (2001). Introduction to visual and performing arts content standards for California public schools prekindergarten through grade twelve (p. 3). California State Board of Education. Retrieved April 2011 from http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ssRieber, L. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games (p. 12). Educational Technology Research and Development Vol. 44(2), p. 43-58. DOI: 10.1007/BF02300540