One of the underlying principles of Active Learning is that all individuals should be active participants, and that materials and the environment should be adapted in such a way as to encourage this. As such, the emphasis is on the process of activities, rather than the product. This means that facilitating exploration to promote cognitive and physical development is the goal. With an art project, for example, learners should be given materials that are interesting to explore and the activity should be at their developmental level. Adults should not manipulate the learner's hands. Adults may model an appropriate activity nearby and assure the materials are positioned in ways that the child can actively participate.
In the photos above, DJ and Matthew are exploring the features of a pumpkin. In other words, they are learning about the properties of the pumpkin in a non-directive way -- feeling the hard outer shell of the pumpkin and the wet, sticky seeds and pulp inside. They can explore the bright orange color, the ridges on the outside, the shape of the pumpkin, its weight, and the stem at the top.
Other examples of how to utilize a pumpkin in an "Active Learning" way include the following examples:
- Allow a child to roll a pumpkin across the floor (just like a ball.)
- Use more than one pumpkin - have an uncut pumpkin, a pumpkin with a hole cut but the insides still present, a pumpkin with the hole cut out, but the insides cleaned out. Use pumpkins of different shapes and sizes.
- Drop pumpkins - see what happens when they break open.
- Place a container of pumpkin cuts near a child's feet or hands and allow the child to explore.
- Fill a container with pumpkin seeds and allow a child to explore with hands or feet.
- Float the seeds in water and allow the child to explore.
- Bake the seeds with different flavorings - allow the children to play in, taste, etc.
- Place pieces of carved pumpkin near a child's hands or feet and allow the child to explore.
- Put a child in the hopsadress or support bench and allow the child to explore pumpkins while in this equipment.
- Cut basic shapes into the pumpkin - allow a child to explore the holes with his/her fingers.
- Put the shapes into the holes of the pumpkin and allow a child to use his/her fingers to poke the shapes into or out of the pumpkins.
The ideas are endless and this approach allows all children to interact with a pumpkin at his/her developmental level.
Click on images to enlarge.
Similarly in the art projects above, the emphasis is on the process rather than the product.
In the image on the left, learners made Mother's Day "flowers" with a product called Magic Noodles. When moistened the noodles become sticky. The children were allowed to pick up the noodles, squeeze the noodles, get the noodles stuck on their fingers, try to pull the noodles off their fingers, make balls and shapes with the noodles, etc. The magic noodles are made from corn, so that children can put them in their mouths. The leaves were colored with scented paint and paper. The children were allowed to smear paint over the paper using their fingers. The pipe cleaners were presented so the children could pick them up, drop them, roll them in a tray, bend them, etc. Only children who were developmentally able to assist in assembling the flowers participated in this step. Once the children participated in the various parts of the project, the adults assembled the project for a Mother's Day gift.
In the image on the right, the learners played with colored popcorn and glue. The adult cut out ahead of time the leaves, stems and flower petals. The children were given containers of popcorn to play with. Some children ate the popcorn, some raked their fingers through the popcorn. Cups and spoons were added to allow the children to scoop into containers, or practice scooping with utensils. After a period of time, the popcorn was placed on the red petals and glue was added. The children played with the stickiness of the popcorn - bringing both hands to mid-line, grasping or rubbing the popcorn off their hands, pulling the kernels apart, etc.