The way children learn today is dramatically different from years past. The screen has replaced the sandbox. Kids play games on iPads instead of on the playground.

The way children learn today is dramatically different from years past. The screen has replaced the sandbox. Kids play games on iPads instead of on the playground.

While there are myriad benefits to digital learning, there are also serious drawbacks to removing kinesthetic educational opportunities — learning through physical activity rather than merely watching and listening — from our classrooms.

Here is what world-renowned autism spokesperson and professor of animal science Temple Grandin has to say about this problem:

“One of the worst things the schools did was taking out the hands-on classes such as art, music, sewing, woodshop and auto mechanics. These classes provide four important avenues for both education and success. They motivate kids who love hands-on activities to remain interested in coming to school and learning.

They also teach practical problem solving and for some students, serve as refuges from bullies. A fourth and final advantage of teaching classes, such as auto mechanics, is introducing students to the highly skilled trades. Highly skilled trades such as mechanic, certified welding, and an electrician, are bright spots in the economy where there are lots of high paying jobs.”

According to the best knowledge available, hands-on learning is an absolutely vital step in a child’s education — a step that has unfortunately taken a back seat to less active learning styles. It’s also a step that, as Grandin demonstrates, effects performance in secondary education and, potentially, employment.

In an interview ABC Keystone, registered architect and principle Mark Shermeyer of SAA Architects revealed that his passion for building and eventual career choice is linked to some of his very earliest memories.

“As early as day one,” said Shermeyer, “I can remember — and this is probably the earliest days of elementary school — having an interest in buildings and putting buildings together … I had my dad drive me around so I could photograph buildings.”

Shermeyer went on to explain how creating buildings with American Plastic Bricks in his formative years developed the basis for his choices in high school and, eventually, his decision to become an architect.

Since it’s clear that kinesthetic learning is more crucial for children than ever, how can parents offer their children such learning opportunities? Fortunately for ABC Keystone and the communities we serve, there are many opportunities in the region for children to learn, discover and grow.

Here are a few:

Hands-On House: This exciting children’s museum in Lancaster has a variety of interactive exhibits that allow children to learn even as they play.

Whitaker Center: With science exhibits and programs aligned with Pennsylvania Academic Standards, the Whitaker Center offers educators and parents ways to enhance their children’s science curriculum.

The Pennsylvania State Museum: Students young and old can discover Pennsylvania’s rich history, with a scavenger hunt that encourages children to inspect the exhibits closely.

Strasburg Railroad and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania: Picnic groves, train rides and “fun extras” give young children plenty to be excited about at this train-themed adventure. Learn about the mechanics of a steam engine!

Lifelong learning begins in those critical early years. In an increasingly digital era, it’s never been more important to encourage children to learn by doing.

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