Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Novelty and challenge

Novelty and challenge are essential for a developing brain to continue learning.  So says Anya Kamenetz in a recent Mind Shift article Plumbing the Mysteries of the Teenage Brain.  This is true for all children, but in adolescents it is even more crucial to keep the level of challenge high to maintain students' interest.  The adolescent brain is primed to learn self-reliance through newness and a certain amount of risk-taking.  By putting students into many new situations in school they can gain self-reliance within the bounds of safety.

In a recent week of science for 6-7's, students explored the mysteries of combustion engines.  A retired engineer and friend of the school brought us 4 engines and 4 well-stocked tool boxes for this intriguing project.  He posed a scenario: A polar science station has lost all power. You must repair the engines so they can continue their work.

This hands-on study had a large dose of novelty and challenge and was a recipe for keen interest, motivation and fun.  Not to mention deeper understanding of engine mechanics, forces of motion, power and energy.  And using a spark plug gapper, feeler gauge, and torque wrench!  Sounds pretty self-reliant.

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