How to Have Fun and Get Your Students Interested, Engaged & Motivated

Kids Having Fun in the Classroom
Image courtesy of Woodleywonderworks.

How to use the brain chemical dopamine as the “save” button. 

As someone who works with young people, you can sometimes feel like they aren’t listening to a word you’re saying. Even though you’ve created the perfect lesson plan or activity, the information goes in one ear and right out the other. What gives?

Well, there’s probably more than one reason why your students aren’t hanging on to your every word. After all, distractions abound. But when it comes down to it, there’s one thing that can make or break your students’ memory: a little thing called dopamine.

What is dopamine?

To scientists, dopamine is a neurotransmitter—a chemical messenger that helps the transmission of signals in the brain. It affects brain processes that control movement, emotions and the ability to experience pleasure and pain.

But to anyone who works with young people, dopamine is the brain’s reward mechanism. When students experience something they enjoy – like going on an adventure with friends, or discovering a tasty treat in their lunch box – dopamine is released in their brain. Even learning something new triggers these feelings of euphoria, but only if it’s something really engaging and awesome.

Why should we care about dopamine?

Because our brains are wired to find learning fun! Think about it: Every time we’re interested and engaged in a subject, our brains get a shot of dopamine. The feelings of pleasure that follow make us want to keep learning, exploring and pushing ourselves to find out more.

In other words, dopamine rewards behaviours—like learning—that promote the survival of our species.

But what’s more, dopamine not only motivates us to learn, but it also helps us retain that new information. Dr Martha Burns, a neuroscientist and leading expert on how children learn, calls dopamine the “save button.” 

When dopamine is present during an event or experience, we remember it. But when it’s absent, nothing seems to stick. The more interested we are in an activity, the more dopamine is released and the better we remember it.

Dr. Martha Burns

That’s great, but how can we increase our students’ dopamine levels?

Information is constantly streaming in and out of our brains. That we know. So the trick here is to find a way to filter out all of the familiar sights, sounds and smells and get the students to focus on what really matters — the activity at hand.

  • Present information in an exciting and novel way.  When young people are engaged in hands-on learning with our Kite Kits that information will take precedence over whatever else is happening around them. Their brains will make that information top priority over all other sensory input. Ultimately, they will feel more enthusiastic and engaged, and their dopamine levels will skyrocket.
  • Make your lesson or activity stand out. Our Kite Kits are a unique learning tool to provide access points for guiding inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking about a whole range of subjects. They can be used in science, and math, but why not think outside the box and explore history, social studies, language arts…through kites. The topics are virtually endless (and endlessly fun!).
  • Use the satisfaction of a shared experience and achievement to help keep motivation levels high. Working together, problem solving, pooling knowledge and skills, and taking risks are rewarding for everyone who participates in a Kiting Activity. Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to increase dopamine levels and ensure retention of information. And, it helps keep motivation and attention levels high. 

Our Kite Kits are interesting, engaging, and motivating. Kiting Activities inspire and engage anyone who participates, young and old. We have seen how students who have these satisfying learning experiences develop the confidence, curiosity and perseverance necessary to excel in school and beyond. They become learners for life!

Have any fun learning experiences (as a teacher or student) to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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1 Response

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