The year was 1993. I was 4 years old. My Mom brought me to the mall to get shoes from Stride Rite and because I was such a good girl, my special treat for dinner was a McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal. As I sat there on the bench with my mom by the silk trees, I was the happiest little girl. My mom just bought me a new pair of shoes and my Happy Meal had exceeded my expectations! The onions on the cheeseburger made my mouth water as it was the most delicious cheeseburger I have ever had. The onions were cut just perfectly that the way they blended with the cheese was a complete palate pleaser.
Let’s fast-forward to the present- 2014. I am now 24 years old and that story is all true. It is insane to me that I can remember those exact details from when I was 4 years old. Why 20 years later, can I recall my experience having a McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal? One might say I was destined to work in the Food industry in one way or another, others might just say I’m a fat kid at heart who loves to eat. Whatever way you want to spin it, that is the real magic of the brain at work.
Sheckley and Bell (2006) write, “The more repetitions we have of a change-of-a-body-state (COBS) experience and the more intense this COBS experience, the more likely the brain is to form a durable, fired-together-wired-together (FTWT) circuit to ‘remember’ the experience” (p. 43). Furthermore, Sheckley and Bell (2006) assert: “When durable FTWT circuits of a COBS event such as drinking coffee are formed, whether by constant repetition or by an intense COBS event, the brain includes within that circuit not only explicit associations but also a variety of implicit associations such as nuances in smell, variations in the color of the foam on top of the cup, or even subtleties associated with the brown-eyed person who waited on you. These implicit associations are stored as tacit knowledge. They add another layer to the FTWT neural circuit in the form of a general “sense” or “feel” of a coffee-drinking experience” (p. 44).
That is the power of the brain.
So now, as an educator, how do I make sure that my students are engaging in meaningful experiences that will be stored as tacit knowledge that they will carry with them 20 years down the road like I have?
The answer is simple. Provide students with MEANINGFUL and ENGAGING experiences that they can make connections to. Sheckley and Bell (2006) state, “Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, stated that concepts (ideas) without percepts (experience-based consciousness) are empty percepts without concepts are blind. In other words, personal consciousness based only in COBS episodes is “blind” in that the extension of consciousness based only in COBS episodes is “blind” in that the extension of consciousnesses top include situations outside the realm of experience may not be apparent to some learners” (p. 47). I make it a point when I am teaching certain topics or vocabulary, that I always give an example that could directly relate to my students’ current life. I find that when I do that, my students are able to recall information quicker than they would if I did not give them that example. Another way that educators can make learning meaningful is through the actual learning activities they are doing in class. Rather than just having students copy down vocabulary, turn it into a scavenger hunt in your classroom. Do not be afraid to take advantage of the multiple intelligences! The more you use, the easier the learning will come for your students.
Still need more help? Watch the video below to see some ways how math can be made more meaningful for students.
Edutopia. (2011). How to make math meaningful [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZaZGL-vP5E
Sheckley, B.G. & Bell, S. (2006). Experience, consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (110), 43-52. doi: 10.1002/ace.219