4-H Learn by Doing

— Written By and last updated by Dawn Stone

A great theme that we use here at 4-H is, “Learn by Doing.” This is a mantra that we really take to heart too! Whether it be teaching bike safety by having youth actually ride bikes through an obstacle course or learning about electricity through wiring pop can lamps, the best way to “figure something out” is by getting in there and doing it yourself. And I don’t just mean physical activities, 4-H encourages youth to learn the appropriate ways to handle themselves in particular situations by actually acting out difficult circumstances that come up at school and among peers and talking through how that feels. What better way to figure out the best choice for you than to go through a few scenarios and pick out what works! The benefits of “Learn by Doing” are numerous. You gain a better understanding of what it actually means to do the activity.

kidswithbikeRiding a bike isn’t that hard, right? If you were to read about the technique in a book or manual it would seem quite simple. When you hop on however, the subtleties of keeping your balance, steering and maintaining the proper speed become very apparent. These are things you couldn’t learn simply by reading and yet it could be argued that they are the most important things to know. By actually doing something, you are able to apply your unique set of skills, talents and experiences to the activity. As I mentioned in the bike riding example, there are a lot of subtle things you would miss if you simply read about riding a bike. By trying things out, modifying the activity and experimenting you learn first hand what works and what doesn’t. It’s this first hand experience that makes ideas and concepts stick.

Learning by doing also promotes critical thinking. Critical thinking is an important life skill. Reading and taking other people’s word for things doesn’t add much richness to our own life experience and in fact much of what we read or are told is simply not true in certain circumstances. Doing things and experimenting allows you to question the status quo, discover new things, new methods but most importantly critical thinking increases your odds of not clinging to a false belief. Putting your hands on the parts that make up a lamp and constructing it yourself really does give the idea of electricity a more concrete form.

Another benefit for hands-on learning would certainly be to make the decision of whether or not this is the right fit for you. It’s much easier for a child to know if he/she would enjoy construction and engineering by participating in a Lego building class rather than having someone just tell them about it. Trying new things is an effective way of building a resume of things to explore further and the ‘been there done that’ list that you don’t want to revisit.

I challenge you all to take a bit of time and think about what you are currently learning. Then decide if you’ve been stuck in the ‘theoretical learning camp’ for a bit too long. If you have been, stop reading about what you want to do, talking about what you should do, and actually do what you want to do. 4-H would be a great place to start!

North Carolina Sate University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, age disability, or veterans status. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

Persons with disabilities and persons with limited English proficiency may request accommodations to participate by contacting Jody Terry at 336-318-6000 or jody_terry@ncsu.edu or fax – 336-318-6011 or in person at the Randolph County Extension Office at least 10 days prior to the event.