Creating Memorable Learning Moments
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.
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
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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