Creating Memorable Learning Moments

Submitted 4 months ago
Created by
Brad Choyt

What do you remember from your time as a middle school student? If it’s been more than a few decades, as it has with me, chances are the first thing that comes to mind are the lessons that were out of the ordinary—either content or pedagogy that made a deep impression because of unique qualities. For me, this happened in my seventh grade history class. Following studies on Charles Darwin and his voyage on the MHS Beagle, the class began a discussion on the theory of evolution. Rather than have us read a textbook and write a paper on this topic, our teacher had us reenact the Scopes Trial, asking us to assume the role of a lawyer representing one side or the other and to research evidence for building our case. Those who were undecided on this topic became members of the jury and each side’s objective was to convince this neutral group their perspective was correct based on their findings and the strength of their arguments.

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The trial, which only lasted a few class periods, is now one of the few moments I remember from my experience as a seventh grade student. Yet I know the vast majority of my time in school that year was spent focused on other kinds of learning, mostly sitting in rows of desks and taking notes from my teachers. Of course, much of the content I learned in this more traditional format was also important, and I am certain I still use some of it today. But what I learned about the theory of evolution has proven to be a more lasting memory.

As educators develop and implement their curricula, it is important to strike the right balance between the routines required for day-to-day learning and unique opportunities for mastering content that may include performances, competitions, or place-based studies outside of the classroom. Balancing the classroom routines that provide a safe and supportive environment with opportunities to stretch, approach complex topics in unique ways, and absorb new information heightens student engagement while forming long-term memories. For to this day, whenever I hear about theories of evolution or creationism, I still envision myself as a seventh grade student, grappling with big questions and preparing for trial. 


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