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  • Writer's pictureBethany Huebner

Antidote #3 – See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil

Clinician to educator
Three Wise Monkeys

During my high school physics class, we were tasked with the project to build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape. Not only did we have to build it, but it had to float while holding one of us in it. After it was deemed to float, each team raced from one end of the pool to the other for the coveted trophy. We spent weeks on this project…designing the boat with all sorts of physics equations, gathering cardboard wherever we could find it, and coaxing our parents into buying the coolest duct tape design. On the day of the race, our team was ready. We weighed our boat with our brave teammate pre-race and then calculated our density one more time. It had to be less than 1000kg/m3 the density of water in order to float. Our density was 407kg/m3….we were ready! Theoretically, the waterline should only go up about halfway on our boat, so nothing to worry about…theoretically.

use the senses
Will it float?

That was the point of this project…turn theory into reality. Our high school physics teacher was a master at antidote #3 - using the senses. Theories and equations in a physics course can sometimes be very abstract (Okay a lot of times actually…). Calculating mass times acceleration, converting pounds to kilograms, factoring in friction, etc. Anyone can be taught to memorize plug and chug equations, but the magic in learning happens when the abstract becomes concrete. When you can touch, see, feel, and experience density, acceleration, centripetal forces, life gets so much more interesting. And this not only applies to the physics but every type of learning.

Dr. Richard Mayer, a psychology professor at UC Santa Barbara, has found in his research that a multi-sensory environment ALWAYS, not sometimes, ALWAYS created more accurate recall in students compared to students who only heard or read the information. Multi-sensory environments in his studies included lectures and labs that included content with text, pictures, animations and/or video. Other multimedia learning research has found that when content is presented via audio alone, students only retain about 10% of the content 3 days later. By just adding a picture to the spoken word retention increased up to 65%. This is a 6x increase in retention…just by adding one of the senses. Adding a picture causes the brain to build two mental representations of the content – a verbal and visual model. Having two models represent a concept creates a much stronger connection for recall later. Add in a component of touch or smell or taste and you have a hit!

I’ll bet you are wondering if our density calculations were correct or not…we will never know. Our boat floated for about 3 minutes prior to our teammate stepping in, but our poorly reinforced boat bottom decided to collapse to the weight of our 130lb boat captain the moment his second foot hit the bottom. The captain sank, the boat sank, and our grade sank. But we sure did learn a lot.

How do you use the senses in your classroom?

How have you seen others use this antidote?

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