Neuroscience – an outdoor task: using brain-based theory in your teaching can be simple!


Introduced mapping today. I thought that I would use a bit of neuroscience theory to underpin the lesson, but in a “simple and fun” manner. (brain theory doesn’t have to be complicated!)

The lesson was in the middle of the day, right when the pre-lunch slump hits! So, I decided to get my very active and social class outside to revise a little bit of compass point theory they had engaged in last term and, introduce some key ideas about the topic ie. topography, creating clear maps, measurements.

Making the lesson an active one ensured that they would be moving, increasing the blood flow to the brain which, from a neuroscience perspective, increases the likelihood of a successful learning outcome for all students. Also, when discussing key ideas from this lesson (in future lessons), the aim was that the associated kinaesthetic memories will make these discussions more meaningful.

Also, making part of the activity a “blind” one (albeit very safe), meant that students experienced a small amount of stress, thereby increasing the impact of their learning (talking Eric Jensen here).

Anyway – this is what I did!

1. Location: School’s central courtyard area – “Everyone, head North!” (south, west, south-east etc – lots of discussion occurred)

2. Review of compass points – students pointing.

3. Students drew a simple map of the courtyard area.

4. Students applied the compass points to their map.

5. Students “paced out” the various features of their map in order to create measurements for these features. (recorded these on the map)

6. In pairs, one seeing and one with eyes closed, the “blind” person was directed around their map using their measurements. (some students commented on the dips in the ground that they found while completing this activity).

Back in the classroom the following questions were asked:

1. What worked well.

2. What did you find difficult? Why? (link to topography was made)

3. How accurate was your map when you were pacing it out “blind”? Why was this the case? (link to the need for accurate measurements and what we need to effectively read and interpret maps)

4. What did the map show, what didn’t it show? How is this map different to a real map? Why?

5. I briefly explained the lesson’s point in relation to neuroscience so that students understood why they had completed this particular activity.

Aim for future lessons:

1. Key ideas behind map-making and interpretation will be linked back to the courtyard mapping activity. This way, all students regardless of ability, will be able to successfully appreciate some of the topic’s more complicated ideas. The rigour quadrant (see an earlier entry) wil also be used to accompany students’ learning.


About Kate Pill

I am a Secondary School teacher who is passionate about developing students' ability to answer the "who, what, when, why, how, what if and what next" questions over the course of their learning. A "mature starter" (read as - late!) to the teaching game, I am still developing my IT street smarts. This blog will chart my own journey through the metacognition landscape as I facilitate my students' understanding of not only WHAT they are learning but HOW they are learning it. Wish me luck!

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