What’s Ahead for Next Generation Kids?

IM4U Blog from Ellen Booth Church 

What’s Ahead for Next Generation Kids?

Well, the one-word answer is CHANGE.

In this blog, Ellen speaks about the inspiration for her new book.

 I was honored when my good friend and IM4U educational colleague, Uncle Jim Mayer, asked me to write about the inspiration for my new book coming out in Fall 2016 from Gryphon House. It is called "Nurturing Next Generation Innovators" and it is about the skills children will need in the future as they experience life in a rapidly changing, global community. (https://www.gryphonhouse.com/books/details/nurturing-next-generation-innovators)

Actually, the inspiration for the book goes all the way back to my father. He was born in 1896 in rural Nebraska. His father was a Methodist minister and missionary. As a family, they traveled the mid-west in a covered wagon. By the time he passed away in his 90’s the United States had traveled to the moon and back. That is a great deal of change in one lifetime. When I think about my father I naturally reflect on my own life and the changes I have seen and experienced. Technology is one of the most important changes I have had to keep up with. I couldn’t even type years ago and now I do everything on a computer! But of course, as an early childhood educator, my heart and mind always think about children. What’s ahead of the next generation of kids?  Well, the one-word answer is CHANGE. The future is constantly changing and children will need to be innovative in how they use problem-solving, creative and critical thinking skills to thrive. In the future children will have to work with new discoveries in science, expanding technologies, as well as cultural and environmental changes with innovation and problem solving.

Daniel Pink in his ground breaking book, A Whole New Mind, Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World points out how our education system is evolving out of the Industrial Age of the 19th century when there was a great need to memorize information and learn skills. As the world changes our education systems need to change to meet the needs of children. Pink says that we have moved through the Information Age of the 20th century where knowledge is readily available through technology and now we are in the Conceptual Age of the 21st century. He says, “in short, we’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again- to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” 

We know from studies that children develop these skills through open-ended, play-based activities such as those in the IM4U Educational program. Activities that encourage children to empathize with others viewpoints, discuss and solve problems on the spot together are both community building as well as brain building. Hands-on activities that use the arts and science build all the basic skills children need but give them the advantage of thinking about many ideas instead of worrying about getting the “right” answer. Unfortunately, didactic, workbook based programs rarely teach children how to problem solve. Children may get the right answer and pass standardized tests but do not have the innovative skills that go beyond the “facts” we test to the “ideas” we inspire.

Why did I write this book? I wrote it because too many times recently I have found myself feeling discouraged when I got back to the hotel after my keynote speech and school visits. I am disheartened when I see so many kindergartens that do not have blocks, easels, or rhythm instruments. I am shocked to see that many young children have limited recess time while they are asked to spend extended time at table or desk doing pencil and paper activities. I wrote this book to provide educators and families very practical help with activities that are both interesting and challenging for children.  With innovative thinking and skills in place, children can greet the world of change with confidence, adaptability and creativity. As Stephen Hawking once said, Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”