The Importance of Hands-On Learning

What do you remember of your middle school experience? Vocabulary words? Lectures? I remember very little. I’ll tell you what I do remember… the things I did and the way people made me feel. I remember going camping. You know why? Because I did something. What are you doing in your classroom this week?

I think we grossly underestimate the importance of kids doing stuff in the classroom. In this world of video games, iphones, and helicopter parents, kids need hands-on learning more than ever. Kids don’t do stuff on their own like we did when we were kids.

I have felt this for a very long time, but never did I see it more than at the end of last school year.

My kids were burnt out by the last week of school. (Aren’t they always? Aren’t WE always?) Anyway, I wanted to end the year on a good note, on a note of learning, of review, and a positive experience for my students, for me, and one I wouldn’t feel like I was forcing them to do. I racked my brain. Cue: Trivial Pursuit. (If you don’t want to read about the activity, skip down to below the pictures now.)

How’d I do it? I grouped everything we learned from the entire year into 6 categories and came up with 20 questions for each category. The answers had to be one word or phrase. I made 20 question cards, each card had 1 question for each category, just like the real game. Each category was assigned a color. I made boards on the computer, with one color dot on each space (this is when I also accidentally wrote ‘trivia pursuit’ on the boards instead of ‘trivial pursuit.’) I then typed up the answer in a grid (shown in picture). I provided each group with one grid of answers. When the other team answered a question, they would find the number and category to see if they were right. This worked because they had NO idea which question number they would get next, so they really couldn’t cheat. I made pie pieces with the names of each category for them to collect. In order to win they needed one of each pie piece. Playing pieces? I used little lego characters. My students thought this was the greatest thing ever. I also needed one die for each group. Here are some pictures…

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Above: board game and answer key.


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Above: Question cards and pie pieces

I made the game, showed my kids, explained the rules, etc. They were to play in partners (to give the chance for discussion) over a 2 day period. After I finished explaining, “Shana” (you know the kid, the one who says whatever thought goes through her head) says, “this is going to be fun.” Yup. It was. But that’s still not my point.

Over the next two days my students played, and even had fun! They rushed into class to set up and play. It was great. But here’s what’s even greater: what I learned from them playing this game…

Every single conversation they had was about something we had DONE. Never was it a vocabulary word, a lecture, a handout. Never was it a test, a quiz, a homework. Remember when we (insert any one of the activities we did)?? Yes! Yes! Yes! It was like a teacher’s dream come true. All of the hours I had poured into writing labs, activities, etc. had paid off times a million.

I’ll say it again: We grossly underestimate the importance of hands-on learning. We feel like they’re not doing enough, not getting enough out of the activity, some kids take over, some do less, we could be going over vocab, taking notes, etc. STOP. IT WORKS. You might not see it during the activity, tomorrow, next week, next semester. But it works.

Brought to you by one very crazy science lady,


Stop back in soon. I’ll be doing a series on different TYPES of hands-on learning and how to implement them in your classroom. If you need something now, be sure to visit my store for a whole plethora of activities. Just click here to visit. Remember to click the little green star to follow me. As for my game, I will be posting a version of it soon in my store.

Mineral Testing 101

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I am a mineral nerd. My students, of course, love this. I think kids love anything we can get excited about. It gets them excited.

Kids need to do stuff. Not just read about stuff, write about stuff, or hear about stuff… but DO SOMETHING.

Here is how I set up my mineral identification lab:

  1. Introduce the different mineral tests using this PowerPoint.
  2. Introduce Mohs Hardness Scale using this puzzle. After we finish the puzzle and do the follow up questions, I pull out samples of talc, gypsum, calcite, corundum, and quartz and do a demo where I figure out which is harder/softer, and physically line them up in order on the desk. The kids totally get it after that one.
  3. Hand out these mineral identification sheets.
  4. I line up my minerals, 1-20 on my front counter. All tables get: 1 iron nail, 1 glass plate, 1 copper penny, 1 white unglazed porcelain plate, 1 black unglazed porcelain plate. Students take 1 mineral at a time and move at their own pace.
  5. Students must fill in all info on their identification sheets. Then they use their tables to make their ‘best guess’ and ‘second guess’ for each mineral.
  6. For the first 5 minerals, I will tell them if they got it correct or not, but after that, they’re on their own! They get 2 class periods to complete the lab.
  7. Each mineral is worth 3 points. They get 4 points if they get it on their ‘best guess,’ 3 points for getting it on their second guess, and 2/3 points if they don’t guess correctly, but put appropriate information in their chart. This works well because students are motivated to get them correct and really use the information. I give them enough ‘easy’ minerals that they almost all get a 100%, or close to it.

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Click below to check out my entire mineral bundle, or my 50 for 50, which has 50 original labs and activities for the middle school earth science classroom, for $50. All of my identification labs can be found in the 50 for 50.



Mineral Bundle 50 for 50

Happy mineral identifying!!


50 for 50

Looking for something new to do in your earth science classroom?! Who isn’t. I just put together a bundle of every lab and activity (minus task cards) in my store for a mega bundle of 50 ORIGINAL LABS and ACTIVITIES for $50! That’s a buck an activity. All STELLAR. Seriously. I poured my HEART into every. single. one. Earth science is my baby and I LOVE doing new, creative stuff. Check this one out. It will be 28% off at the SMILE! Sale on November 30th and December 1st.

50 for 50

Thanks for checking it out!