Sticky moments and how they help us learn

There's a concept floating around out there about something called "peak moments," which refers to times in our lives that are intense, emotional, exciting, and therefore memorable - in other words, they stick in our minds.


That's why us Wipebook folk prefer to call them "sticky moments" (no, we're not talking about that time when you got gum in your hair.)


 whiteboard notebook cool brain shot


In fact, research shows that these sticky moments have a biological connection - when we get anxious, excited, or nervous, stress hormones like cortisol interact with the amygdala, a part of the limbic system.


The limbic system also houses the hippocampus, the part of our brains that forms and stores long-term memories. While the exact science is still a little fuzzy, it's clear that the amygdala is sending some kind of memo to the hippocampus that says something like, "Hey, Hip! Remember this for future reference!"


And that FOLKS is the BIOLOGY behind what is making those memories stick....


You probably have some of these sticky moments in your own life:

  1. Prom;
  2. Winning an award;
  3. Getting married;
  4. First child; and
  5. Finishing that final question on your calculus exam...wait, what?


 whiteboard notebook calculus on old boring board


BEING engineers by trade you could say that Frank and I have an affinity for the MATH THING as well. 


But with that being said, if the CAL trigger, point 4 above, didn't get you all nostalgic (and therefore ISN'T as STICKY as the others in the list) you're not alone....


So herein lies the bigger question then: HOW CAN WE MAKE THAT FINAL CAL QUESTION MORE MEMORABLE then?


whiteboard notebook more emotion 


The answer might be in some research performed by Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments who seem to think the latter is possible.


Further, this research reveals that several teachers, who agree with them, have gotten creative and integrated uniquely sticky moments into their classroom strategies.


For example, two social studies teachers turned a classroom discussion of Lord of the Flies into a dramatic - and certainly emotionally charged - trial of author William Golding.


Another example, high tech high schools in San Diego have replaced all of their exams with public exhibitions, where students showcase robots, self-published books, artwork, and other projects. Such events are a culmination of months of hard work, with the final presentation almost certainly qualifying as a sticky moment.


These educators understand that if we want more engagement, more emotional triggers MAY be an answer....


So: Should we be throwing scientific soirees? Mathematical musicals? Stuff of that nature... Maybe not the perfect examples, but the answer may be along those lines.


Just sayin'