Great Curriculum & 21st Century Skills: What Makes a School Great?- Part 3

Great Curriculum & 21st Century Skills: What Makes a School Great? Part 3

A Curriculum that teaches students 21st century skills. 21st century skills prepare students to live in a global community with an unknown and rapidly changing future.

How do you spot a school with a great curriculum and learning opportunities?

Maker spaces and time to create and use 21st Century skills like Design thinking and entrepreneurship.

Caine's arcade MakerFaireA great curriculum teaches kids 21st century skills: to design, make and be entrepreneurs, in preparation to live globally in a rapidly changing world. The annual Cardboard Challenge sponsored by the Imagination Foundation is one example of an innovative way to incorporate these skills into a school curriculum. The cardboard challenge is an annual celebration of student projects made of cardboard inspired by Caine’s Arcade. The celebration started 2 years ago by Nirvan Mullick to “let children explore their interests and passions, teach valuable ‘21st century’ skills like critical thinking, resourcefulness, perseverance, and teamwork, and bring communities together to foster and celebrate child creativity.” It was started because of a boy named Caine Monroy, a 9 year old boy who made arcade games out of cardboard boxes.

On April 9, 2012, Nirvan Mullick posted a short video about Caine’s Arcade on Youtube that quickly went viral and now has more than 8 million views. Nirvan was Caine’s first customer to play the cardboard arcade games at his father’s used auto body parts store in Los Angeles. Caine was a boy who had to entertain himself at his Dad’s auto-parts store during the summer, so he started making arcade games out of used cardboard boxes.  As much as his story was heartwarming, it was also “do-able.” Children and schools all over the country started making their own cardboard arcades and teachers formed Facebook groups to share ideas. The Cardboard challenge culminates on October 5th, the National Day of Play and the anniversary of the Flashmob at Caine’s Arcade in the first short film. Caine is a perfect example of a maker who transformed his play into a business. He used 21st century skills like critical thinking through design and resourcefulness to learn while playing. We can see more examples right here in New York. The Blue School is hosting a free Cardboard Challenge party in Dumbo Brooklyn.

Blue School Pop-up Cardboard Challenge Blue School CardboardChallenge

Build boats and bridges out of cardboard

in DUMBO at Main Street Park (the pirate ship park)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

at 11:00 AM – 1 pm

Main Street & Plymouth Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 The Blue School is just one school that is reflecting, reviewing and updating their curriculum to incorporate innovative 21st century skills on a regular basis. But there are many ways to recognize a great school curriculum. As Dale Dougherty, the father of the Maker Movement says, “[Children] can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs.” Encourage your school to incorporate the art of making in their curriculum. It doesn’t have to have a maker space in order to be great because a maker space and makers, can be anywhere; an art classroom, science lab, or even where the Girl Scout troop meets.

A curriculum that teachers review, reflect and update regularly is a tool that lives and breathes, not cemented in time.

Great teachers are always learning new information, new techniques etc. They review, reflect, and update curriculum to incorporate critical thinking and problem-solving skills. A great teacher fosters learning in a community of collaborative, respectful students where mistakes are celebrated and develops each student’s ability to learn in addition to increasing the students’ knowledge of the subject matter. While it is important to have a great teacher at the reins, just as important is their guide, the curriculum. Great teachers must have a curriculum that will bolster their ability to convey critical information, allow their students to explore learning globally and equip them with skills for the 21st century; skills necessary to innovate, create, collaborate and communicate. We must teach students in order to prepare them for jobs that do not exist now. Tony Wagner, the Harvard-based education expert and author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” explains it this way in Friedman’s Op-Ed column for the New York Times, “Teaching for America”. “There are three basic skills (21st century skills) that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy, the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate”. Evidence of these 21st century skills in schools can be seen in various ways for teachers and students.

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills Do students create projects that require applying knowledge in new ways and using critical thinking and problem solving skills? Are they assigned projects that have multiple design solutions or examples? Do they have problems that encourage them to analyze and challenge what they know?
  • Communicate effectively Do students make presentations, posters or reports? Do they use multimedia, video and audio for school work? Do the teachers use the same technology (multimedia, video, and audio) for teaching? Are there school publications or bulletin boards reporting teachers going to conferences, workshops, visiting other schools travel grants etc.?
  • Collaborate Do students work on group projects? Do you see teachers working together on their grade levels? Are there grade wide field trips? Do you know if  teachers are visiting other classrooms or co-teaching projects or lessons?

In that same way, a curriculum should facilitate critical thinking communicating effectively and collaborating, in class discussions, while Student should be working on. When students learn process as well as content they learn – how to ask questions, critically evaluate data and find answers to questions that have not been solved. These 21st century skills can be represented in many ways in and out of the classroom yet they must permeate the teaching and learning that occurs. The Maker movement, design thinking, and innovative curricula are all effective because they incorporate the teaching of the 21st century skills necessary for our children to succeed.

Put your 21st century skills to work and be a maker! Here are some places you can start: Built By Kids Instructables DIY Smiles, Sharon

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