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Helping students organize and remember all of the messages presented to them during a field day is challenging. Studies suggest that students can only retain limited amounts of information presented to them. Grouping related information can extend these limits. Experts suggest that themes help students to group information and better retain it by providing a framework that relates the many facts presented to them. Themes basically summarize the main idea you want to teach. They answer the “So what?” of your message and are usually complete sentences. Effective themes relate to participants’ schoolwork and home lives. Effective field day presentations are planned around a few learning objectives that relate directly to the theme. Participants tend to remember themes while they often have trouble remembering all of the specific details that you may present to them.
Structuring your field day around a single theme creates more effective communication. It focuses your effort in developing presentations that provide a common message. From the participants’ perspectives, themes increase the chance that they will retain the information presented to them at your event.
At the end of the county field day, Brett happily exclaimed, “We learned all about how plants can stop soil erosion.” Asked for more information, he explained, “Well, my group had to find and name three plants with fibrous roots in one presentation. In another, we used different stuff to make our own roots, put them in soil, and tested which ones stopped erosion best. And we got to plant trees on an eroding hillside in another presentation.” Corey, an event organizer, smiled as Brett finished. “It is great to hear our students put things together like that,” he said. Corey and other organizers planned their field day around a theme this year: Plants can stop erosion. All of the presentations built on this theme. Corey continued, “It made more sense for the students. Instead of remembering a little from one presentation or another, they remember the theme and how all of the presentations help to explain it. I think they gain more from the event this way.”
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