Students Should be Experimenting before Reading or Watching Videos


It was first believed that students learned better by first reading or watching videos about a new topic before jumping into hands-on learning in the classroom. But thanks to Stanford researchers, that may no longer be the case. The Stanford researchers used the BrainExplorer, a table-top tool that simulates how the human brain processes visual images, to debunk this old fashioned way of teaching students new topics.

“Our results suggest that students are better prepared to understand a theory after first exploring by themselves” said Bertrand Schneider, a GSE graduate student who led the research under the direction of Paulo Blikstein, an assistant professor of education.

The study performed by Stanford researchers involved 28 undergraduate and graduate students as participants, none of whom had studied neuroscience. After being given an initial test, half of the group only read about the neuroscience of vision, while the others worked with the BrainExplorer tool. When tested after those respective lessons, the performance of participants who used BrainExplorer increased significantly more – 30 percent – than those who had read the text.

The second test had the two groups switch and do the other learning activity. So the students who read first then used the BrainExplorer and the BrainExplorer students only read about the neuroscience of vision in the second test. The researchers revealed that there was  a 25-percent increase in performance when open-ended exploration came before text study rather than after it. (A follow-up study showed identical results for video classes instead of text.)

“We are showing that exploration, inquiry and problem solving are not just ‘nice to have’ things in classrooms. They are powerful learning mechanisms that increase performance by every measure we have.” – Blikstein

In conclusion:  The “exploration first” model is a better way to learn!

Create New Back-to-School Family Traditions


In a recent article written in Jump In! magazine produced by School, the article describes 6 ways to create new Back-to-School family traditions.

 “Establishing fun back-to-school traditions can help your kids feel more secure as they advance to the next grade. Traditions also strengthen family bonds and create fun memories.”

Creating new traditions with your family does not have to cost a ton, be overly time consuming or complicated! Here are some of the ideas for creating some new back-to-school traditions:

1. Capture a picture of your children on the first day of school and the last day. Then on their last day of high school, show them the pictures of how much they changed and grew up over the years!


2. Do a “last supper of summer” meal. Let them choose what will be for dinner, with an anything goes type of menu! Make it memorable and fun!


3. Read an inspiring book together and encourage your child that they will do well in the next new grade that they are moving on to!


4. Write a letter to give to your child to read on the bus or during lunch. Offer encouragement or point out specific moments where they made you proud. Save a copy of each letter and give them to your child the day they graduate high school.


5. After the first day of school is over, leave your children with a “first-day surprise” on their beds. Something small, like a stuffed animal, gift card, or fun game!

6. Lastly, some families have traditions of baking cookies for their children and having them just out of the warm oven when they get off the school bus! It gives them time to sit and enjoy and also allows for conversation about their first day back to school!

Whatever your family tradition is, cherish it and create lasting memories!