The youth scientists in D2D clubs this summer are having great experiences watching birds, searching for monarchs, exploring wetlands, and so much more. These activities are usually fun and inspiring, and with a little facilitation, they can also be powerful learning experiences.
"What?!" you may be thinking. "Of course these are good learning experiences!"
But experiences alone don't automatically lead to learning. It's the reflection on the experience that generates understanding.
If you are familiar with Experiential Learning, you may recall the mantra "Do, Reflect, Apply." These three words are a simple summation of the process of learning from experiences:
- DO: Have an experience, perform something, try something
- REFLECT: Talk about the experience with others, describe what happened, analyze the context, actions and outcomes
- APPLY: Consider how this experience might relate to other experiences in the future, consider what was learned, then apply insights to a new situation.
- Rose/Thorn/Bud: At the end of each meeting, conduct a quick round robin discussion in which each youth scientist reports one "Rose" (highlight/what they liked best), one "Thorn" (difficulty/challenge), and one "Bud" (a new idea or skill) from the day.
- Occasionally use the "Reflect & Rethink" page developed in the first year of the D2D program.
- If you've done the "What is a scientist?" activity, have the youth do drawings of themselves as scientists...what qualities do they possess that make them scientists?
When preparing investigations, hold a "roundtable" in which youth present their research plans to each other. Peers can provide feedback and troubleshoot together. Kristi says this allows youth to sharpen their research skills by analyzing multiple research plans instead of just their own. By doing this throughout the club experience, the youth scientists gain confidence in their science skills and develop ownership in all of the club's projects.
As you hold your club meetings, be sure to allow time for reflection throughout the experience. Ask questions about what the youth say and do during these moments, and listen closely to their answers. As that reflection time helps youth scientists make sense of and learn from the fun and interesting experiences they are having, it will be time well spent!
Extension educator, Environmental science education
University of Minnesota Extension, Rochester, Minnesota
- Deidrick, J., Doering, S., Geiser, D., Kanengieter, H., Piehl, B., Stevenson, A. (2005). Questions for Guiding Experiential Learning: A field guide for adult volunteers, mentors, coaches, fair judges, etc. St. Paul: University of Minnesota Extension.
- Knapp, C. (1993). Lasting Lessons: A teacher's guide to reflecting on experience. Charleston, WV: Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.