Objective. Hands-on learning has been an important aspect of the profession of occupational therapy since its founding. The purpose of this study was to determine whether children engaged in hands-on learning would be able to recall more of the steps and more of the correct order of the steps of an occupation than children engaged in a demonstration teaching method.

Method. After being randomly assigned, 73 healthy third-graders (42 girls and 31 boys) either participated in making a model of a volcano or observed the making of a model of a volcano. Following task completion, both groups were asked to recall and state as many of the 41 syntactical units as possible in their proper order. The children’s responses were audiotaped and scored in a blind fashion according to predetermined criteria. Interrater reliability was excellent.

Results. A t-test revealed a significant difference between conditions in terms of free recall scores, with children in the hands-on condition having a greater recall score, t (71) = 2.63, p < .005. The effect size d equaled .62. A MannWhitney U Test revealed no significant difference between conditions in terms of remembering the steps in proper order (the lack of a significant difference may have been due to a problem of measurement).

Conclusion. The results of this study demonstrated that participants were able to recall more information when engaged in a hands-on teaching method as compared with a demonstration method. It is suggested that the learning advantages of hands-on occupation are related to the enhanced sensory/perceptual experiences and the feelings of success that are characteristic of hands-on learning, as opposed to passive forms of learning.

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