Can Learning Be Fun?


Print McNeil & Company 2:11 pm

By: Dave Denniston, Director of Risk Management

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Let’s face it, we have all had to attend a training that we weren’t really looking forward to. With the demands on everyone’s time and what seems like mountains of mandates, how do we keep it fresh and interesting? As instructors, we must also realize that the demographics of our students are changing. If we continue to teach the same old stuff the same old way, we will get the same old results: students that don’t really want to be there and closed minds before we even start.

I recently noticed some departments posting pictures of unusual trainings on social media. One that stood out was firefighters playing dodgeball in full turnout gear. My first thought was “Seriously? What good could this possibly do? Why would we waste valuable training hours on such nonsense? What happens if someone got hurt?” Then I read the comments people were leaving on the posts. Responses such as “awesome”, “I wish we would do cool stuff like that” and “I should join that department” stood out to me. The wheels started spinning and I jotted down some of the positives from that event. The students were learning about their air packs, they were working on air consumption and they were having fun. That’s right, they were learning and having fun. These students couldn’t wait for the next training! Maybe there is something for all of us to learn here. Think about it for a second. When people talk about a good training, don’t they often speak of one they had some fun at?

I started working with one of my Captains to see if we could duplicate this excitement. We laid out four stations that tested skills, promoted comradery and got people thinking and working together. We had a life sized Jenga-style game that the teams did in air packs. We had an egg handling station that used turnout gear, gloves and hydraulic rescue tools (yes we had plenty scrambled eggs for breakfast) and a lifting station that used offset ladders, a piece of sheetrock and an egg. The results were awesome! We trained with tools we hardly ever used. We had firefighters working together and coming up with solutions we never thought of. At the end of our scheduled time, we almost had to drag people out of the firehouse to bring it to a close. We had laughter, we had high fives and we had all learned a lot.

As with any training, the success or failure of an event like this will stem from planning, documentation and a clear goal of what you hope to achieve. Careful oversight is a must to keep everyone on track and safe. Obviously these events will never replace all of our training, but maybe each drill could have some type of teambuilding event added to it to encourage folks to come back for more.

To answer the original question presented in this post, I offer the following: yes, learning can be fun. It may also be necessary to keep students motivated and make the most of everyone’s time. Think about the last time you had students eager to be there. If it wasn’t your last training, maybe there is some room for improvement.

 

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