Hands-on Means Minds-on For Primary School Classroom Activities 

Reading, writing, and lecture are the predominant ways students have traditionally been taught in the classroom. But research shows students focus and retain knowledge better when they are actively engaged in hands-on activities. Scientists believe that when children use all of their senses, it creates connections and pathways that help the brain to learn faster. Students of all ages and learning styles can benefit from adding hands-on classroom activities and games to their lessons.

Also, the more facets involved in a classroom activity, the greater the opportunity to reach and engage every child in the room. From students with sensory challenges to those who need a physical activity in order to stay focused; hands-on, physical, and creative activities help children to understand and retain information.

“Kids learn through all their senses,” says Ben Mardell, Ph.D., a researcher with  Project Zero at Harvard University, “and they like to touch and manipulate things.”

Life’s Onion tool is the perfect companion to many classroom activities. It can be used to take a non-physical lesson and transform it into a hands-on experience. It is a simple tool and easy to manipulate, even for small hands. Its structure lends itself to many different types of themes and topics. Your imagination and creativity are all that is required to invent or adapt meaningful classroom exercises for this active engagement tool.

Hands-On Activities Engage Different Types Of Learners

Scholastic.com explains that hands-on projects not only engage students who are tactile or kinesthetic learners, who need movement to learn best. They also engage students who are auditory learners, who talk about what they’re doing, and visual learners, who have the opportunity to see what everyone else is creating.

When your students are working on a project using Life’s Onion, ask each student to briefly explain what they’re doing and why, as well as what they’re learning along the way. For social learners, the time spent in small group conversation will strengthen their knowledge.

Ideas for Classroom Activities Using Life’s Onion

Creativity Projects 

Life’s Onion can simply be used as a 3D art project. Allow students to design and decorate the peels using various art mediums. The project can be open and abstract, or you can ask students to design around a theme. The peels/petals are removable and interchangeable, so they can be manipulated and styled in many ways.

The fact that Life’s Onion has 12 peels lends itself to a number of simple themes. For example, the 12 basic hues in the color wheel, 12 months in a year, 12 hours of day and night. Can you think of more? (share them in the comments!)

Poetic & Metaphor Exercises

With older students, Life’s Onion can be used to explore symbolic language. Get students talking about how life is like an onion and how life is like a flower. This could be in the context of personal development or in an exploration of metaphor and poetics.

Visit our YouTube channel for further ideas in this area: How to Use Life’s Onion.

Fine Motor and Manipulation Exercises

Using a tool like Life’s Onion can also help to build fine motor skills that children need throughout their lives. It can be opened, closed, and flexed. The peels are removable and replaceable. They can be manipulated and decorated in many ways.

Fine motor skills involve the refined use of the muscles which control the hand, fingers, and thumb.They allow children to complete important tasks such as writing, buttoning, zippering, and eating. Little hands need to develop dexterity and strength. These abilities develop through experience and practice with a variety of toys, tools, materials, and foods.

Use Life’s Onion as an alternative to paper and pencil activities to help children develop their handwriting. Students with poor finger manipulation skills often dread paper-and-pencil activities. Life’s Onion may present a fun alternative context for writing.

Geometry Shape/Transformation Lessons

Life’s Onion can be used to examine and discuss simple concepts of form and design. It can display how one peel is interior to another peel but is also a reflection of different peel, and adjacent to yet another. Interior peels are smaller versions of outer peels.This type of simple, relational language is often easier demonstrated than explained.

Help children gain an understanding that shapes remain the same even as they are translated, rotated, or reflected. Teach them to recognize when two shapes are identical regardless of orientation or position, and when shapes are enlarged or reduced versions of each other.

Examples for Hands-On Classroom Activities Easily Adapted for Life’s Onion:

Other obvious themes or contexts for activities with Life’s Onion might be in lessons about plants, vegetables, biology, or cooking. Try for yourself to adapt some of the hands-on classroom activities linked below.

Cause and Effect Card Game: http://www.education.com/activity/article/Cause_Effect_Card_middle/
Earth Day: http://www.education.com/activity/article/earth-day-party/
Tree of Resolutions: http://www.education.com/activity/article/Fall-Resolution-Family-Tree/
Transformations Elementary: http://www.shodor.org/interactivate/lessons/TransformationsElem/
Flower Activities http://www.teachpreschool.org/2013/03/07/14-fun-flower-activities-for-preschoolers/
More hands-on activities can be found: http://www.education.com/activity/offline-games/

P.S. We’d love it if teachers would share their ideas and success stories about using Life’s Onion for a hands-on classroom activity in the comments below. Thanks!