My encounter with poison ivy during a hike on the Bruce Trail illustrated how different people learn differently. Teachers, Trainers, Instructors and Educators call this one’s  ‘learning style’.

A learning style describes your preferred method of learning. Typically  those styles are: auditory (learning by hearing), visual (learning by seeing) or tactile (learning by doing).

Now, possibly you’ve all heard the poison ivy warning:  “Leaves of Three, let it be.” But what exactly does poison ivy look like? There are plenty of three leaved plants in the forest.

During my hike, I ran across a NEW sign on the Bruce Trail that described poison ivy: three leaves, shiny leaves, red stem, little yellow berries at some times during the year and other times of the year the plant is just a stick. [NOTE TO SELF: careful hiking in the early spring and late fall->watch out for ‘sticks’. ]

I think there was some sort of a picture. But I wasn’t about to climb through all the green bushes to get closer to really examine the picture.

Wild StrawberriesI continued on my hike: “Leaves of three, Leaves of three…” Until I saw some plants with leaves of three. (See picture to the right.) “ls that poison ivy?” I asked myself.

“Hmm… Reddish stem, three leaves…” But I thought the flower looked a bit like a strawberry blossom. Perhaps this plant was a wild strawberry?

And then I saw a massive patch of three leaved plants. The leaves were so shiny! It was the ‘shiny’ adjective that nailed it for me. So I took the picture at the start of this article to bring home to show to my Boy Scouts (since they have never pointed out poison ivy to me).

So when you are designing your training, try to appease each of the learning styles: auditory, visual and tactile. Slides (with text) and lecture to appeal to the auditory types while pictures, charts and diagrams to appeal to the visual types. Including discussions, exercises and experiments will appeal to the tactile learners.

Now, if you are teaching a lesson on poison ivy, avoid the tactile ‘hands-on’ approach. 😉

Until next time (stay on the trail)…

Do you know what poison ivy looks like? Which learning style helped you learn? Please share your story with us.

PS-I have searched for articles and descriptions of poison ivy and have been disappointed until I found this great post/collection of pointers to content on poison ivy.


Poison Ivy iPhone picture by Anne Cauley.

Wild Strawberries Flickr Creative Commons Image by Lewis Brown aka ‘Wiselark’.