5 Elements That Make a Learning Activity a Memorable Experience

by | Leading | 4 comments

 Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” —Winston Churchill

5 Elements That Create a Memorable Experience

  1. Use Layering. Plan several activities that add to, build on, or complement what’s to be learned during the session. (I’ll post a future blog on layering.)
  2. Tell a story. Dry material comes alive when it’s presented through examples, personal stories, drama, and humor. (I’ll post a future blog on storytelling.)
  3. Provide participant involvement. This should be something that pulls people into the experience, better than simply breaking up into discussion groups, if possible.
  4. Allow creativity. Guide the activities, but let people express their individuality as much as possible during the session.
  5. Design something profound to happen. Anything that gives participants a blip of feeling, a smidge of identifying, or a helping of new understanding will seal the session as a memorable experience.

Example:

I prepared a Bible study for our prison ministry on the creation story from Genesis 1. (See another prison ministry example.)

I could’ve planned the normal: have a prisoner (cadet) read the Bible passage aloud, then have them break up into discussion groups led by volunteers asking pre-scripted questions. This works adequately for some participants.

But earlier, I’d led a creation story for Vacation Bible School. I also used the idea successfully for preschoolers in Sunday school and in Bible Study Fellowship. 

I already had the props: Large, made-from-cloth sun, moon, stars, clouds, and day and night skies. Long lengths of material for water, earth, sand, and grass. Crumpled grocery-bag rocks. Artificial plants and trees. Numerous plastic insects, ocean creatures, and reptiles. Feathered fake birds and stuffed animals.

As twelve cadets filed in, volunteers welcomed them and handed them an item. Curiosity crept onto their faces as they accepted a spider, a flower, a folded length of material, or a furry bear.

The cadets sat in a wide circle of chairs. Volunteers distributed the rest of the creation items evenly among them.

Dressed in a Biblical robe, I launched into a dramatic narrative based on the Genesis scripture.

When the water was to be gathered into seas and dry ground was to appear, I invited cadets who had lengths of blue, brown, and sand-colored materials to spread them on the floor within the circle. Soon I called for vegetation. Cadets set flowers, plants, and trees wherever they wished on the green and the earthy-colored materials.

When night was to be separated from day, I asked tall prisoners to hang the sky-blue and black materials on the wall. Then I called for the sun. The cadet who possessed the sun attached it to the Velcro on the blue sky. Same for the moon and stars on the black sky. 

As I summoned sea creatures and birds, conversations and suggestions began buzzing among the cadets. Finally, I called for reptiles, insects, and animals. Cadets took care to place their creatures on trees, rocks, sand, and grass.

Imagine what that space looked like. One cadet pronounced it beautiful.

Here’s the something profound. I asked them what was missing. Some cadets said, “People!” I invited them to come into our creation. They sauntered in and sat on the colored cloths among the plants and creatures. Some cradled stuffed animals while others toyed with lobsters or birds. 

Then we discussed the experience. Many hadn’t thought much about what God created, but during that moment they were keenly aware of what a wonder creation is.

What profound element have you added to a session that worked?

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4 Comments

  1. Stacy Monson

    Zoe, you have to be one of the most creative people I know. And I’m so not, so these ideas are really helpful to me. I’m passing your posts along to my son who is in the midst of student teaching. They are definitely ideas he can use as he teaches. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and gifts!

  2. Marcia A. Lahti

    What profound element have you added to a session that worked?
    To help the VBS preteens understand what Jesus did, I gave each young person a smooth black stone. I asked them to think of their left hand as them and their right hand as Jesus. They were to hold the stone, which represented their sin in their left hand. (Every sin they had ever committed or would commit, even that sin that they thought might be the unforgivable sin). To explain what Jesus did, I had them take their right hand and remove the stone from the left hand. I told them. Jesus takes your sin. He took your punishment. You can be right with God by trying to be good. You are right with God when you accept (believe) what Jesus did on your behalf. God put your sin on Jesus and Jesus took your punishment. I allowed the kids to keep their stones.

  3. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Stacy, thanks for your kind words. I hope your son can find an idea here that will enhance the learning experience in his class.

  4. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Marcia, such a simple activity with a profound message. Thanks for sharing it.

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