6 Keys to Successfully Changing Behavior

Instructional design principles like these are what lead to students learning

1. Teach principles, not just do's and dont's

If kids just memorize do's and don'ts, they may not recognize all potential safety hazards or energy and water wasters.

When you help kids understand the underlying principles, they can apply those principles to stay safe and conserve natural resources in situations similar to but different from those discussed in the materials.

For example: The Shocking Truth About Electrical Safety teaches kids how electricity travels to ground. Once they “get” this principle, kids can avoid touching any circuit and ground at the same time.


2. Show the most critical points in pictures, not just text

Nonreaders, English-language learners, and hurried skimmers may miss points that are communicated only in text.

When the key messages are conveyed in pictures, more kids will learn how to stay safe and conserve natural resources.

For example: Stay Safe Around Electricity shows a scene with a downed power line on a car. The kids in the illustration are demonstrating the proper behaviors by calling for help, staying away from the car, and telling the passengers in the car to stay inside to stay safe.

3. Make the core safety and conservation behaviors clear and repeatable

When the main points aren’t super-obvious, kids will be less likely to recall them later—in the presence of a potential hazard.

Kids retain new ideas best when the ideas are presented in multiple ways, with clear steps that are easy to remember.

For example: One scene in the video Electrical & Natural Gas Safety World shows how to exit a car on fire that’s in contact with a fallen power line. Kids learn the proper jump-and-shuffle technique from the actors and from the narrator, and they watch each actor safely jump from the car. Then the actors repeat the correct steps so that kids will remember.

4. Use age-appropriate materials

Older kids will dismiss juvenile cartoons. Younger kids can’t read sophisticated text.

Utility public safety managers often consult us when selecting materials for a specific grade. We’ll help you with recommendations that take into account factors like urban versus rural reading levels and early fall versus spring reading levels within a grade.

For example: The customizable utility website e-SMARTkids is designed to be interactive to appeal to upper-elementary school kids, with online games, interesting activities, a game club, and an Ask an Expert area.

5. Include hands-on activities and sound to enhance visual learning

Because not all kids learn best visually, you can’t rely solely on text and pictures to successfully teach everyone.

Activities that let kids engage their hands and bodies encourage kinesthetic learning—while the use of the spoken word, music, and sound adds the reinforcement of audio learning.

For example: The Find the Hidden Dangers! web game uses audio cues like applause and buzzers to indicate correct and incorrect answers. Neighborhood sounds like an electric lawnmower help focus attention on electrical hazards.

6. Leverage the benefits of "kids teaching kids"


Nothing turns off the upper-elementary kid faster than an adult droning on about a subject like electrical safety or where energy comes from.

Because kids in this age group pay close attention to what their peers say, incorporate kids in the delivery of your safety messages.

For example: In Don’t Get Zapped! Play It Safe Around Electricity! shock survivor Nathan vividly describes what happened when he was struck by a lightning during a storm. The story about a boy their own age grabs kids’ interest and sets the stage for the accompanying science lesson and safety tips.