Rather than seeing schools as places to fill children’s minds with what adults want them to know, what if we saw the primary role of schools as unleashing the unbounded creativity of adolescents’ brains to address the existential challenges adults seem incapable of solving? Teams of children would choose the issues they want to tackle and adults would help them learn everything they need to pursue innovative solutions.
If we begin early enough, children are not tainted by fear of failure or by racial, religious, gender, political, or national prejudices. They are, however, deeply concerned about the big issues they hear about from adults and the media like: refugees, gun violence, drugs, injustice, bullying, plastics in the ocean, climate change, and global warming. These are the type of challenges that adolescent brains thrive on and grow on. They see national and civic leaders in the media daily deadlocked on critical issues, disparaging those with opposing positions, and seemingly incapable of arriving at solutions that could make the world our youth will inherit better. Unless challenged now, most will eventually absorb the entrenched prejudices of the adults in their world.
Emer Beamer, the Dutch creator of Designathon Works, believes in engaging students with big issues. “Our unique value proposition for learners lies in the combination of three pillars: creative thinking, technological literacy, and being invited to apply themselves to global issues. Most programs for children offer them small and relatively inconsequential issues to tackle. In a designathon, however, children get to work on issues such as plastic soup, climate change, and refugee problems. The size of the issues is highly motivating and also corresponds to the level of concern children experience. They want to think big.”
Designathon now has chapters in the Netherlands, Dubai, South Africa, Aruba, Canada, India, Croatia, Serbia, Poland, and Spain, plus an annual event hosted by over 25 cities around the world. For more see: The Global Search for Education: Creative Changemakers for a Better World