Have you ever doodled during a business meeting or dull presentation? Research is now showing us that this kind of activity is not a symptom of boredom or disinterest. It’s actually a representation of the “busy hands, busy brain” phenomenon, and people who doodle during meetings retain almost a third more information from those meetings than those who don’t.


Experts agree that engaging in a simple, hands-on task during a learning experience helps prevent restlessness and daydreaming, thus increasing the amount of information retained.

This is exactly the same principle applied during hands-on learning experiences in schools.

What Is Hands-On Learning?

Hands-on learning is any educational activity that involves the learner directly, by encouraging them to “learn by doing.” It’s often difficult to understand something you haven’t seen or experienced for yourself, so allowing students to directly see, touch, or feel – instead of just reading about something in a book – is a great way to not only encourage learning but also to promote independent and critical thinking.

“Kids learn through all their senses, and they like to touch and manipulate things,” says Dr Ben Mardell, a researcher at Harvard University. Author Judy Dodge agrees. “The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information,” she says. “If you’re only listening, you’re only activating one part of your brain, but if you’re drawing and explaining to a peer, then you’re making connections in the brain.”

Hands-on learning is particularly effective in encouraging an understanding of science. While it’s true that scientific information can definitely be retained and recalled when taught via lessons and books, a far deeper and functional understanding comes from studying the same concepts through hands-on learning.

These are just some of the benefits that have been observed in children immersed in hands-on learning:

  • Critical analysis and thinking is encouraged by having to interpret events that have been physically observed, rather than through memorising correct responses.
  • Learners realise that data can be interpreted in different ways, and this encourages them to question events and practice cause-and-effect thinking.
  • Learners rely more on practical experience in planning experiments and generating hypotheses, than on authority.

At Roseway Waldorf, we strongly believe in the principle of learning by doing, which is why our learning looks a little different to what you might be used to. If you’d like to see how effectively hands-on learning is working for our learners, please chat to us about coming for a visit. We’d love to meet you.

Angelique Laaks